Absence of proper internet death knell for Kashmir economy

More than a year of ban on proper high-speed internet has worsened already beleaguered Kashmir economy, leading to shutdown of start-ups to hassles in day to day commercial activities.

On the eve of abrogation of special Constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, internet was shut down by the administration along with all modes of communication including telephones. Though other means of communication have been restored slowly, the high-speed internet continues to be a casualty which is having a cascading effect on Kashmir’s economy.

The financial miseries which the low speed 2G internet has wreaked upon the economy can be argued by the fact that two recent reports by Government of India, one on export index and other one on ease of doing business, has placed Jammu and Kashmir among ‘laggards’.

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries is pegging the losses due to internet shutdown and COVID situation at Rs 40,000 crore since August 2019.

“It doesn’t need rocket science to understand that when you choke the internet to businesses in the modern age, you are choking the business opportunities. Our economy is suffering from an illogical internet ban which has been thrusted upon us for a year now,” said president Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Sheikh Ashiq.

“Our exporters are not able to fulfil their business obligations, IT start-ups have vanished, day to day commercial activities are hit, what else is left? Government must immediately restore high speed internet to save the economy,” he said, adding, “Kashmir has been witnessing law and order problems for decades; this can’t be a reason to collectively punish 1.35 crore souls.”

President Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Muhammad Yaseen Khan, said 70 percent of commercial activities are hit by the low speed internet. “A simple online transaction takes ages, to import items one has to upload bill documents, which otherwise could be done in a second takes hours due to low speed internet. Our businessmen have to cut a sorry figure whenever any business meetings are scheduled. Recent examples of local contractors failing to participate in the bidding process of mining resulted in bids being won by the non-locals as they have the advantage of high speed internet.”

People have also raised questions about the fact that on one hand the government is barring high-speed internet on mobile phones citing law and order situation, on the other side allowing cellular companies to spread their business by way of high-speed fibre broadband.

“There is an opinion that high speed internet is throttled only to enhance business of cellular companies providing fibre internet services. Otherwise there is no logic that when there is fear of misuse of high speed internet, why these companies are allowed to gain market space,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a local resident.