According to SFLC.in, the Indian government has clasped the internet services a total of 373 times since 2012. In 2019, the nation witnessed 104 internet shutdowns. This not only affects our day to day life but also telecom companies who incurred heavy losses.
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According to the director-general of COAI, each of the active telecom company is undergoing a loss of at least ₹1.5 Cr daily per state. Uttar Pradesh, the fourth-largest state in India, recently witnessed internet shutdowns in eight places, owing to the protests against the implementation of CAA in India. Whereas in Kashmir, internet services were snapped since August 5. This has been drawing flak worldwide as the incumbent Indian government is acting on its whim.
What’s worse, India graces the first spot in internet shutdown in a Forbes list, followed by Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, D.R. Congo, Ethiopia, Iran, Chad, Egypt. India has also been referred to as the ‘internet shutdown capital of the world.’
If you see the image below, you’ll surely notice the countries where the internet is banned the most. India is the most populous democracy in the world. Syria has been grappling with wars for years while the same cannot be said for India. It’s funny (and sad) to see India leading in a list of countries where the internet witnessed perennial shutdowns.
For instance, the internet in parts of Delhi was shut down, as a reaction to protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Darjeeling in West Bengal endured a 45-day internet shutdown due to political demonstrations, while Nawada in Bihar had a 40-day shutdown as a result of communal clashes.
Now, coming to losses, as the nation is already grappling with. According to a study by the think-tank Brookings Institution, India lost over $968 million because of internet shutdowns (July 2015 and June 2016). Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations mentioned that the financial outcome of the internet blackouts can be anywhere between 3 billion dollars (2012-2017)
Access Now, an international non-profit group that supports for free internet, argued that “Shutting down the internet is an inherently disproportionate response [to the threat of false information triggering violence]. “It often leaves vulnerable people without access to information that could potentially save their lives”.
If you are wondering who has the mighty will to block the internet despite the obvious heavy losses, an officer – of no less than joint secretary rank in the state or Union government may order internet shutdowns “due to public emergency or public safety”, under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
To jog your memory, SFLC.in mentions that the internet shutdown of 26 January 2012 was the first reported shutdown by a mainstream press. The mobile internet services were shut in the Kashmir valley on the occasion of Republic Day.