BJP, Opposition MPs spar over Internet curbs in Jammu and Kashmir

Internet

Shashi Tharoor, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology, asked pointed questions on how the country could be prepared for 5G considering J&K doesn’t even have 4G.

The shut down of hi-speed Internet in Jammu and Kashmir was debated between MPs of the BJP and Opposition for two hours at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology on Tuesday, sources said.

The committee was to have a briefing by the representatives of Ministry of Communications (Department of Telecommunications) on the subjects of suspension of telecom services/Internet and its impact and India’s preparedness for 5G.

Also read | Jammu and Kashmir to get limited 4G access

Chairman Shashi Tharoor, according to sources, read out the Supreme Court judgement of January this year which said access to Internet is a fundamental right. He asked pointed questions on how the country could be prepared for 5G considering J&K doesn’t even have 4G.

He was countered by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey who pointed out that India got mobile phone by 1995 but it reached J&K only some years later. Mr. Dubey’s claim was also countered by a Congress MP who said the committee should concern itself with the present situation alone.

Officials of the Telecom Ministry told the committee that they had written to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the J&K administration on the issue. As per the laid down procedures, the District Collector can take the first call to shut down Internet, based on the law and order situation. However, the decision has to be vetted by a review committee within five days.

Also read | J&K internet restrictions: SC sets up special panel

The opposition members pointed out that this review committee consists entirely of bureaucrats. They pressed that there was a need for public representatives to be part of such a review committee to ensure public participation in the decision-making process. They also insisted that the review should be held in a timebound manner.

Internet was suspended in J&K on August 5, 2019, when Parliament passed a bill nullifying the Article 370 which gave special status to the State. After the Supreme Court hearing, 2G mobile data was restored on January 25 this year.

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