Are we all on a race for Digital India or Offline India? Well, this can be a pretty controversial question. Recently India has got the tag of ‘Capital of Internet Shutdown’ where the longest shutdown has been 196 days and counting in Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir. Countries like China and Myanmar have seen worse offline days, but among democratic nations, India has got the offline digital throne.
Imagine living an offline life; where there is no WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Online money transactions and hospital databases, all being completely shutdown. It’s not a pretty sight to imagine. So why does the government impose a ban on the internet? Has it been effective?
Since 2012, the internet ban in India has crossed the century figure and made up to a total of 382. India contributed 67 per cent of the World’s internet shutdown in 2018. The highest number of internet ban has been witnessed in Jammu and Kashmir alone.
When article 370 was scrapped, Jammu and Kashmir were bifurcated into Union Territories there was a storm of massive protest. There were relentless strikes, and most of them took to streets to express their views; the government in order to control this situation, imposed an internet ban which has been counted for 196 days and it is still on.
In 2017 Darjeeling, West Bengal also witnessed a curb on the internet for hundred days due to the massive stir up for a separate Gorkhaland. To take control of the situation and to kill the fire of false rumours, the government imposed internet shutdown.
11 states in India have been a victim of offline days. The government usually impose internet ban to prevent rumour-mongering, public safety, National security, to control massive protests and to disallow terror, militant or anti-national networks. However, does snapping off the internet in some way strike off the right to speech and right to freedom? Does it really control the situation, or is it just counterproductive?
In India, where everything is on the run to be made digital, and suddenly when the internet is being snapped off, it makes the whole finance nerve paralyzed. Lack of internet banking, transactions and shut down of online websites affect the numbers of financial transaction in a significant way.
In 2019, there was a loss of 1.3 billion dollars due to the 4,196 hours of internet shutdown. Between 2012 to 2017, India witnessed a massive sweep of 3 billion dollars. After Iraq and Sweden, India is the most economically affected country due to the curb of the internet. In the northeast, 102 million dollars were blown away due to the recent internet shutdown in association with Citizenship Amendment Act.
When India dreams of being a 5 trillion dollar economy, it is most likely to be sidetracked if this internet ban continues as investors won’t be able to pitch in with confidence.
Even though the internet ban is done to take control of the situation, it affects various other aspects too. It often creates panic and hysteria. It impacts education as nowadays everything relies on the internet. Communication with family members is hindered.
In Kashmir, an NGO which works for women safety offering services through the internet is also frozen now. In hospitals were all the databases are online, the internet ban creates a problem there too. As everything is going cashless to online, it serves a significant challenge to carry out transactions.
So, is the solution creating more problems? For instance, in Kashmir, the blackout was imposed to prevent massive protests as well as to kill the fire of rumours, but was the enormous protest put to an end due to internet ban? It did help to put an end to false rumours and other baseless messages, but this action was not able to put the massive protest to an end.
Indian government wants to tackle the source of fake news, rumours, and baseless messages, but their approach to it may not be that subtle. Snapping of the internet should be taken as an ultimate action and not for all the glitches. Or more effective measures should be taken to tackle the fly of false messages.
What are your views on the internet shutdown? Do you think it is an effective measure?