With the Internet and Email having been disconnected even for the domestic users and with the STD/ISD PCOs having been shut down for more than three months now, the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir remains incommunicable with the rest of the world ever since the advent of 2002. This is hardly a compliment for the Govt of India which pledges day in and day out to integrate and bring Jammu and Kashmir closer to the rest of the country.
With reports of further build up on the borders, there is little likelihood of the restriction being lifted very soon even though the ill-conceived snapping of Internet/STD may be hardly facilitating Army's preparedness to meet any eventuality across the Line of Control. Nevertheless, even if New Delhi gets the better sense to revoke its decision and lifts the ban sooner than later or even before this write-up appears in print, the debate over the wisdom, rationale and policy motivating such a panic decision will continue for several weeks and months to come.
First, the wisdom behind the decision. The Internet and Mobile telephone were suspended for less than 48 hours following the unprecedented terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre at New York. Back home, the Internet, STD or Mobile services were not suspended even for a single day during the continuing carnage following the Godhra incident in Gujarat. The Internet/STD srvices have been suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on the plea that there is movement of troops along the Pakistan border but these services continue uninterrupted in Punjab which is as close to the Pakistan border as Jammu. These services also continue in the capital city of Delhi despite the Pak sponsored terrorist attack on Parliament House and the troops deployment along borders which are not far from Delhi. Would it not be therefore wiser on the part of the authorities to snap the Internet/STD link to Punjab, Delhi and Gujarat as well on the same grounds which motivated a similar decision in case of Jammu and Kashmir?
Second, the rationale behind the decision. It is a common knolwledge that militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir have become more virulent in the recent months ever since the Internet/STD was cut off. The Fidayeen suicide squads made a bid to blow up the sacred Raghunath temple --- something which was never attempted before ---- only after they were officially deprived of the Net and the STD PCOs. Does this mean that the Govt of India is making a laughing stock of itself by resorting to such grotesque decisions even as the foreign sponsored militants have at their disposal much more sophisticated communication devices including the Satellite Telephones and they can also afford access to Internet/Email through STD via Delhi or a neighbouring city in Punjab?
Third, the question of policy behind the decision. Does the Government of India wish us to believe that the snapping of Net/STD in Jammu and Kashmir is going to be a precedence for future which means that even if these services are restored, there is possibility that these can be again withdrawn any moment without notice? Or, is it true that certain self-righteous authorities in the higher echelons are inclined to announce random decisions on the spur of moment and then forget to revoke these even when there is reason to do so? Is this a matter of policy or lack of it? Is this a policy of "no policy?"
Meanwhile, there seems little consideration for the enormous negative fall-out of the hasty decision to ban Internet and STD PCOs in the State and to disallow the entry of Mobile telephone. The Telecommunication sector is losing revenue worth lakhs everyday. The industrial and trade sector is incurring extra expenditure to carry out its day to day business. And, the most innocent victims are the student community who normally owe much of their resource study material to various websites and Net inputs. The shutting down of STD PCOs, has, on the other hand, deprived lacks of pilgrims to Vaishno Devi and visitors from outside from maintaining a regular contact with their families back home. Even though the authorities claim to have provided special STD facility for security personnel, the PCO served as a readily available means of communication for even the Jawan on roadside patrolling duty.
To put it briefly, it is the common man who is suffering the most even as the Ministers and the bureaucrats enjoy exclusive Internet and STD facility provided free of cost at the State Civil Secretariate. It is the common man who is paying the price for a lameduck Government's inability to exercise the necessary check and surveillance on the wrong use of Net and PCOs by anti-national elements. And, finally, it is the common man who must take up cudgels against such mindless decisions imposed on him. Umapathy wishes his privileged masters also to get a feel of the pinch experienced by him. "Ai Baad-e-Hava Unko Bhi Do Chaar Thapere Halke Se, Jo Log Kinaare Pe Baithe Toofan Ka Nazaara Karte Hain!"
Published in dailyexcelsior