SRINAGAR: National Conference (NC) president and Member of Parliament from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday seeking the immediate restoration of high-speed 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.
"As you are aware, the first case of coronavirus was detected in Kashmir yesterday which has resulted in authorities locking down large parts of the valley," Abdullah, who was last week released from seven-month-long detention, said in a letter to the prime minister.
The NC president said businesses and students have already been hit hard by the shutdown after August 5, 2019, and are again suffering because of these restrictions.
"The people are being advised to work/study from home, but this is impossible with 2G internet speed and limited fixed-line internet penetration. I would, therefore, request you to restore 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people," he said in the letter.
The chorus for the restoration of high-speed 4G internet services on mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir has grown in the wake of the detection of the first case of coronavirus in the valley.
Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year, hours before the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370.
While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and Broadband and leased-line services were restored months later, the 4G services continued to remain suspended.
The government in a recent order said the low-speed internet will continue in the Union Territory till March 26 "in the interests of sovereignty and integrity" of the country.
The chorus for the restoration of high-speed 4G internet services on mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir has grown following the detection of the first case of coronavirus in the valley.
Several people, including Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti's daughter Iltija Mufti, have called for the restoration of the services to help raise awareness about the virus.
"World's battling coronavirus but J&K admin still unrelenting & refuses to lift the inhuman ban on 4G. In times of COVID pandemic, access to Internet & info is a necessity not a privilege. Are Kashmiri lives so cheap? (sic)," Iltija wrote on her mother's Twitter handle.
She has been using the former chief minister's Twitter account since Mehbooba was detained on August 4 last year.
The government in a recent order said the low-speed internet will continue in the union territory till 26 March "in the interest of sovereignty and integrity" of the country.
Mattu on Wednesday said the Kashmir Valley recorded its first positive case for novel coronavirus in Srinagar.
The Srinagar mayor has written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah requesting that 4G Internet services be restored in J-K.
Mattu said the move would help minimize the impact of the spread of the virus.
People in the valley said the high-speed internet was not a luxury anymore, but a necessity in view of the virus outbreak across the world and have demanded its immediate restoration.
"The administration in J-K must realise how important high-speed Internet can be at this time. People need to know the information in real-time so that they prepare and pre-empt their actions against the spread of this virus," Shuja-ul-Haq, president of Kashmir Press Club, said.
The residents in the valley said the world was looking up, on internet, for information to curb the spread the virus, so it was high time for the authorities to restore the high-speed data services on mobile phones.
"With the growing fear of coronavirus in Kashmir, the world advances towards the virtual world to curb misinformation and increase awareness among people. Isn't it high time to restore 4G in Kashmir?" Wani Shahid, a resident asked.
"It is high time now that the authorities take a decision on restoration of 4G internet in the valley," another resident, Sardar Nasir Ali khan said.
The Kashmiris appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister to intervene in the matter.
"It is a humble request to the PM and HM to restore 4G in Kashmir as soon as possible keeping in view the vulnerability of coronavirus.
"Less people are aware of this pandemic here and restoring 4G will help," Rayees Ahmad said.
Rameez Nazir said it was the high-time to restore 4G services in the valley in order to allow people to work from home.
Many Twitter users criticised the authorities for posting the awareness videos on social media, saying the low-data speeds do not help their cause.
"Authorities in #Kashmir are posting videos on Twitter about preventive measures during the pandemic. But on the other hand, they put restrictions on the internet those who run this system are a combination of arrogant and ignorant that makes them lethal #Restore4GinKashmir," a user Aanis Bhat wrote.
Another user, Shazia Bakshi, said the only tool for communication in times of social distancing was being denied to the people of J-K.
"Internet is perceived to be a bigger threat to #Kashmiris than #Coronavirus !! At a time when #SocialDistancing is a way to survive this apocalypse, the ONLY tool for communication, knowledge, connectivity, information, work et al is being denied to us! Shame! #Restore4GinKashmir (sic)," she wrote on Twitter.
"In this tough time when life is battling to fight deadly disease of #coronavirus worldwide people are informed and educated against the safeties, but unfortunately this government is not restoring the main medium of communication which is Internet in Kashmir. #Restore4GinKashmir," Basharat Gul Hassan, another user wrote.
A student Nayeem Dar said the students were the suffering the most due to the restrictions on the internet speed.
"If JK administration really cares about the people of Kashmir, then 4G restoration should be their first priority. Being a student myself, I know we suffer the most," he said.
Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year, hours before the Centre announced the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.
While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and broadband and lease-line services were restored months later, the 4G services continued to remain suspended.
Authorities in Kashmir on Thursday quarantined 78 people, who arrived here from Leh in Ladakh union territory, for suspected novel coronavirus infection, officials said.
The two-week quarantine has been made mandatory for all persons coming to Kashmir from Ladakh.
"Seventy-eight passengers arriving from Leh have been quarantined at a designated facility on the outskirts of Srinagar. Medical and logistics teams have been deployed," Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said in a tweet.
The officer requested the families of those quarantined to not visit the facility as it was not allowed.
"We will take care (of them)," he added.
The authorities on Wednesday placed 81 people who returned from Leh by an Air India Flight in isolation.