BUSINESS WITHOUT INTERNET: Kashmir economy suffers estimated Rs 2000 cr loss

Internet blockade costs business dearly

SAQIB MALIK
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 13 2018 11:20PM | Updated Date: Dec 13 2018 11:20PM
BUSINESS WITHOUT INTERNET: Kashmir economy suffers estimated Rs 2000 cr lossRepresentational pic

Kashmir economy continues to suffer due to internet blockade with estimated Rs 2000 cr loss due to suspension by authorities in 2017.

International Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) in its report said Kashmir suffered Rs 1776 crore losses last year. 

However, business community says sharp increase in suspension of internet services this year has incurred Rs 2000 crore plus losses to local economy.  

Sheikh Ashiq, president, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Greater Kashmir that internet shutdowns have hit trade, travel and tourism, handicrafts and other sectors “compounding problems of the economy which is already suffering due to other domestic and external pressures”.  

“When we were just looking at recovering from downturn caused by 2014 floods and 2016 unrest, frequent internet shutdowns this year proved to be a dampener.  As the internet shutdowns have doubled, losses suffered by our trade and economy has easily crossed Rs 2000 crore,” says Ashiq adding that telecom companies alone suffer. “Internet has become need of the day and the authorities should not relate it to law and order,” Ashiq said.

The Delhi-based think-tank conducted the survey,  “The anatomy of an Internet blackout: Measuring the economic impact of internet shutdowns in India”  which revealed that losses due to Internet shutdowns were amounting to Rs 4000 crore between 2012 and 2017.

The frequent internet shutdowns have also hit several digitization programmes of the government. 

The much-awaited radio taxi project of the transport department has witnessed a poor response from cab companies who are fearing that internet shutdowns will be a dampener for their operations here.

Frequent internet shutdowns have also proved to be a hurdle for government’s e-PDS schemes in Kashmir. Digitizing foodgrain distribution records is often hit by suspension of internet, official said. Implemented with much fanfare between February and April this year in Kashmir, Electronic Public Distribution System (e-PDS) of the state government has been  witnessing several hurdles due to the frequent internet shutdowns witnessed in the Valley.

“Point of Sale (PoS) devices used in the e-pds for maintaining digital records of food grain distribution at ration depots and fair price shops of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA) Department is completely Internet based. The frequent suspension of internet services has been making it difficult to operate the system,”  said an official.

There have been regular demands from both business community and common people that authorities should atleast allow access of necessary web portals such as banking websites and travel portals during net shutdowns. Initiated almost two years ago, the idea to continue providing web access of digital banking to customers even in times of internet shutdowns has also seen no headway. “Jammu and Kashmir government has failed to show interest in this proposal mooted by the J&K State Level Bankers Committee after the 2016 unrest,” said a banking official.

Rajan Matthews, director general of New-Delhi based Cellular Operators Association of India, an amalgam of telecom players told Greater Kashmir that operators are “hard-pressed” to shutdown services whenever asked by authorities to do so. Matthews said COAI has written to DoT several times intimating the telecom regulator about internet shutdowns being “counterproductive”.

“Department of Telecommunications (DoT) based at New Delhi has already sent an advisory to several states, including Jammu and Kashmir that internet shutdowns should be avoided as much as possible. District magistrates have been told that internet shutdown should not be the first line of action,” Matthews said.

Pertinently, in order to regulate the internet shutdowns, Central government in September, 2017 came up with rules to legislate the authority required and procedures to be followed to “temporarily suspend telecom services” in case of “public emergency or public safety”. Issued by the Ministry of Communications under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, these rules were codified as the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. These rules confer the status of competent authority to order internet shutdown on the Union home secretary when the order is issued by the government of India.

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