Internet subscribers in Kashmir lose an estimated Rs 2.5 crore every day the authorities snap the connectivity.Jammu and Kashmir has around 12 million subscribers, of which seven million are in Kashmir division that includes Kargil and Leh districts, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) figures.
And the subscriber base is continuously expanding in the state where 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh are added each year, according to the TRAI.
Mobile internet service is often blocked in Kashmir Valley which is estimated to have around 6.5 lakh subscribers across its 10 districts.
On a safe estimate, an average subscriber uses 1 GB of data a day (this assumption is based on the fact that some use 2 GB per day packs while others don’t avail internet data services). The cost of an average data plan is Rs 399 for 90 days, which means one GB data costs Rs 4.33 a day.
So, on a day when authorities shut internet the subscribers in Kashmir pay around Rs 2.5 crore for data they cannot use.
The losses are huge as the government directs internet shutdowns during frequent disturbances in Kashmir.
The latest such instance was Wednesday when data services were snapped as four persons were killed in old Srinagar’s Fateh Kadal area.
In Kashmir, internet services were snapped more than 15 times this year so far.
According to Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a Delhi-based non-profit organisation, J&K has witnessed highest number of internet shutdowns among all the states since 2012.
The frequent disruption of data services has annoyed the subscribers who have now begun demanding cellular companies should refund or extend the plan date by number of days the internet services are barred.
“Why should a subscriber suffer loss because cellular companies are following instructions of the government?” said Ajaz Lolpuri, a Srinagar resident. He said when subscribers purchase a plan, companies clearly mention its expiry date and disconnect the data service on failure to pay up on time.
“But at the same time they are following instructions of the state government but why don’t they refund or extend the service period? We cannot suffer because these companies are following instructions of the state government,” Lolpuri said.Cellular companies say they too face losses due to frequent government “diktats” on snapping the internet services.
“We have to follow instructions of the police and state government on this issue, otherwise they will terminate our contract,” said a senior executive of one company, wishing anonymity. But it’s not only the cellular companies and subscribers who suffer losses due to the frequent internet blockade in Kashmir.
A recent study by a Delhi-based think-tank—International Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)—said frequent suspension of Internet services in the Valley during last several years has delivered a body-blow to Kashmir’s economy, causing losses worth almost Rs 4000 crore between 2012 to 2017.
Tourism, IT services, press and news media, banking, education, healthcare, manufacturing and heavy industries have also been hit by internet shutdowns.