Srinagar: Suspension of high-speed mobile internet has entered 12th month in Kashmir yet the subscribers in the valley are compelled to pay for the services they aren’t able to use.
Sample this: The largest service provider of 4G mobile internet in the valley is Reliance Jio which, as per limited estimates, has earned over Rs 553 crore from Kashmiris since August 2019.
Since the abrogation of Article 370 then, the over 30 lakh subscriber base Jio has in J&K has paid around Rs 553 crore in bills and recharges without actually getting full services.
A rough estimate of around 33.56 lakh Jio subscribers in J&K (as per January 2019 TRAI data) shows each subscriber shelling at least Rs 150 a month.
Speaking to over a dozen shopkeepers running recharge kiosks in Srinagar and Anantnag districts, The Kashmir Monitor came to know that most of the subscribers are still opting for Rs 199 and Rs 129 recharge packs.
The first pack offers 1.5 GB of 4G data each day for 28 days with unlimited calling, while the latter offers 2 GB of 4G data for 28 days with unlimited calling.
Estimates show that on an average, each of the subscribers paid Rs 150 every 28 days which amounts to a whopping Rs 50.34 crore per month.
Since August 2019 when 4G was suspended in the erstwhile state, the subscribers have thus paid a staggering Rs 5537400000 (553.74 crore) till June 30, 2020.
The amount was paid without the users actually getting the prime service — high speed internet– they initially subscribed for.
The authorities have repeatedly extended the ban on 4G mobile internet in J&K even as Kashmir, like the rest of the world, is grappling with coronavirus pandemic.
On June 17, the J&K Home Department passed yet another order, extending the restrictions on internet speed till July 8.
The order passed by the Home Secretary said that high speed net was likely to be used to coordinate and facilitate militant infiltration. It also mentioned that 2G speed “hasn’t impeded” COVID-19 control, e-commerce or online education.
On May 11, the Supreme Court had directed for the constitution of a “Special Committee”, headed by the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, to examine the issues that had been raised by the petitioners in a plea which sought for restoration of 4G speed internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Supreme Court had stated that:
“…we are of the view that since the issues involved affect the State, and the nation, the Review Committee which consists of only State level officers, may not be in a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised.”
Accordingly, a Special Committee was to be constituted, comprising of Secretaries at the State as well as the National level to “look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Till date, the Special Committee has not been constituted. Citing this, the Foundation of Media Professionals, which was one of the petitioners in the SC seeking restoration of 4G services, has filed a contempt petition in the top court.