Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has claimed that the internet restrictions imposed in the region since 5 August last year, and then the Covid-induced lockdown, have caused an economic loss of Rs 40,000 crore in the Valley alone, and that more than five lakh people across sectors are now jobless.
Ahmad told ThePrint the industries hit the hardest by the internet restrictions were tourism, transport and handicrafts, and they were just about beginning to pick up in December and January, before the pandemic swept in, pulling down business yet again.
“Internet is a basic need and we have been deprived. During the pandemic, children are also suffering — even my children have online classes, and sometimes the video works on 2G and sometimes it does not,” Ahmad said.
“For export-oriented businesses like handicrafts, they rely on sending inventory files to clients on WhatsApp. You try sending files on 2G and see how difficult it is,” he said.
The internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir was imposed on 4 August last year, a day before the special status of the state under Article 370 of the Constitution was scrapped. The region got 2G internet access in January after the Supreme Court instructed relevant authorities to review orders suspending the internet.
However, 2G internet has not done much to improve the quality of life in J&K during this Covid-19 pandemic, especially because high-speed 4G internet is at least 20 times faster than 2G, and has become the lifeline that keeps the global economy running.
Due to its slow speed, 2G internet makes watching and uploading videos online, making online payments, or submitting online applications nearly impossible, and in general, discourages many users from trying to use the internet for anything other than simple things like sending a text message on WhatsApp. (The Print)