The Narendra Modi government has claimed that students and teachers in Jammu and Kashmir can access e-learning apps and websites over 2G internet, discounting several ground reports on the difficulties due to slow internet in the region.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday told Parliament that there was no restriction on accessing any website in Jammu and Kashmir and e-learning apps and websites were available, albeit over 2G internet.
Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy, in a written reply, said that internet services are available in Kashmir on fixed line without any speed-related restrictions and mobile data services at 2G speed have been available since 24 January in all districts other than Ganderbal and Udhampur, where high-speed mobile data service has commenced.
Internet services were snapped in Jammu and Kashmir last year in August, hours before the Centre abrogated Article 370. The longest internet shutdown in any democracy over the world ended with the restoration of 2G services in January this year. Defending the ban, the government on Sunday said that the the Jammu and Kashmir authorities issue orders from time to time to regulate telecom/internet services considering the “overall security scenario” and “in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
Reddy said that businesses have had access to internet through fixed line connectivity and internet kiosks have opened in large numbers across the Valley without any speed restrictions.
“The 2G mobile internet speed is not an impediment in covid control measures
including dissemination of information to the general public as well as health workers. Also, e-learning apps and education/e-learning websites of the Government of India/ Government of J&K are accessible over 2G internet for
downloading e-books and other study material.”
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah had slammed the government on Saturday over the internet connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir. “Jammu and Kashmir situation is such that where progress was supposed to happen, there is no progress. Today our children, shopkeepers don’t have a 4G facility that is there in the rest of the country. How will they study, get education, when everything these days is on the internet?” he was quoted as saying by The Print.
Several reports have highlighted the struggles that students and teachers in government schools in the Union Territory face while trying to access classes over 2G when educational institutions are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We started taking online classes for students. However, students were not able to study online in Kashmir due to 2G internet speed. Only a few students were able to attend online classes. Less than half of students have smartphones in this village while for rest it was not possible to attend online classes,” he had said.
The Wire also spoke to a student at a government school in Budgam in April, who said the “2G net is too slow to work”. The student told The Wire that irregular connectivity was a permanent feature during their online classes.
“This happens regularly. Sometimes the screen of my phone turns blank and at times even the audio is erratic,” the student said.
Students and teachers in Kashmir have complained about the slow internet speed regularly and demanded 4G services. Greater Kashmir earlier this month quoted a college professor as saying that universities upload video lectures and other content on their websites, but students are unable to access them because of the 2G internet speed.
A teacher from Baramulla district told Greater Kashmir that it’s impossible to upload required content on the government website through 2G network and students aren’t able to access YouTube to watch video lectures.
The teacher also said that applications launched by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) “are just a dream for our students as all these apps are hard to access on 2G network”.