by Aashish Aryan
THE suspension of Internet services at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders of Delhi as well as adjoining areas again for a day on Saturday means that in less than 40 days of 2021, the Centre or state governments have suspended Internet across the country around 10 times.
Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, which are seeing protests by farmers against the new agriculture laws, have had virtually no Internet services since January 26, when there was violence in the Capital during a tractor parade called by the protesters.
Internet, SMS and other services were suspended for more than 24 hours in at least two instances the past month, one each in Delhi and Haryana.
In the longest instance of high-speed Internet being suspended by an elected government, for 552 days, services that had been curtailed in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 were fully restored only on Friday.
The state with the maximum Internet suspensions after J&K is Rajasthan.
India leads the global tally in suspension of Internet services over the past decade. In 2019 and 2020 alone, Internet and allied services remained suspended in India for more than 13,000 hours, with as many as 164 instances of shutdowns being enforced, according to data collected by various independent auditors.
In 2019, Indian governments suspended the Internet for 4,196 hours, estimated to have resulted in economic impact in excess of $1.3 billion. In 2020, the total number of Internet blackout hours more than doubled to 8,927, with economic losses of more than $2.5 billion, according to data collected by Top10VPN.com, a global virtual private network (VPN) review website.
Internet was suspended 83 times in 2020 and 106 times in 2019. While at least six times this was for more than 24 hours, in four known instances, the services were cut off for more than 72 hours at a stretch, according to data available in the public domain and also compiled by the Software Freedom Law Centre, India, SFLC.in.
Between 2012 and 2020, Internet services were snapped 437 times, with a sharp increase in 2016. In 2018, the Internet was blacked out 134 times all over India.
While 4G services have now been restored in J&K, this is conditional for mobile Internet users, subject to proper verification by authorities.
The erstwhile state has borne the brunt of the Internet suspensions, with 251 such instances since 2012 of suspensions for at least 24 hours. In 2020, 2019 and 2018, Internet services were completely suspended 69, 55 and 65 times across J&K.
Rajasthan is the second highest in Internet suspensions since 2012, with 18 such instances in 2018, according to data available in public domain. Uttar Pradesh had snapped Internet services 29 times till January 2020.
Internet, voice, as well as other broadband telecom services can be suspended citing public safety and security, either by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) or by the order of an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above, authorised by the Centre or the state home secretary, in case of “unavoidable circumstances”.
For Internet shutdowns which are likely to continue for 24 hours or more, the orders have to be issued by the home secretary of the Central or state government under the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885. Such orders must contain detailed reasons for ordering the shutdown and be sent to a review committee the next day. ( Indian Express)