Mobile restoration brings some relief

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/16/2019 8:19:35 AM

However, it doesn't end the communication blockade fully; nor answers questions about why it was imposed in the first place

The resumption of post-paid mobile phones in the valley, more than two months after they were abruptly shut down, does bring some relief to the people with respect to communication. Mobile phones in the last decade have emerged as the primary source of communication and because of their affordability, convenience and better connectivity, many people had already given up their landline phones that were restored a little over a month ago. The resumption of mobile phones thus brings a larger size of the population on the connectivity map. That people were free to communicate and talk on phones after a long spell of time on Monday is a good sign. It is a significant step, nonetheless a small one. It need not be celebrated as a major achievement for a number of reasons. Post-paid mobiles are only one component of the communication system. The pre-paid mobiles have yet to be resumed and internet connectivity which is a fundamental right in today's world, as also laid down by Kerala high court in its recent verdict, is yet to be restored. Ten weeks is too long a period to deprive people of basic facilities as part of a policy of imposing a collective punishment on the people in the name of security or any other pretext. Needless to point out that internet facility is yet to be restored fully in Jammu region, where atleast five districts continue to be totally deprived of the facility, even though the region has been calm and incident free throughout this period. Secondly, many issues related to restoration of post-paid mobiles have emerged. While subscribers of all mobile service providers complained that they were forced to pay bills for the two months that they had not used the facility to restore connectivity, some of those who stood in long queues to get the needful done either alleged that they were being overcharged above their actual mobile plan or that even after paying the bills, the connectivity had not been restored. The issues of re-charging, billing and non-connectivity are some of the important areas that the government needs to look into. That subscribers are charged for facilities that have not been used by them, rather they were deprived of, is something that does not satisfy the consumer laws. Sorting out these ticklish issues is imperative if the government wishes to restore confidence among the public.
At the same time, peddling mobile connectivity as some kind of a goodwill gesture is appalling, to say the least. The mobile connectivity was not disrupted due to some technical flaw or due to some natural disaster, as happened during the 2014. This time, it was taken away by the government. It is a requirement of any democracy that the government offers a reasonable explanation under which law and for which reason was the communication blockade, which violates against the fundamental rights of the citizens, imposed. Mere rhetoric of security reasons is not satisfactory either from the prism of legality, consumer rights or democratic rights. It is futile linking terrorism and security concerns to mobile connectivity and justify collective punishment to an entire population. The government is not only responsible for ensuring that the entire communication blockade is totally lifted immediately but is also accountable for explaining the blockade. Democracy is not weakened but strengthened if government is willing to give answers to uncomfortable questions. Accountability is as important as the need to help build up public confidence in Kashmir. The restoration of all communication networks would be just one step. A good beginning has been made to this end. There should be no further delay or attempts to stall this move mid-way.



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