Banning Internet is a callous solution to maintain law and order
Banning Internet does NOTHING to prevent spread of rumors through word of mouth, SMS, phone calls, or any plain old propaganda. Instead, it stops people to get right and authentic information, which goes a long way in quelling anxieties and unrest. Administration can use internet and social media smartly to provide up-to-date information, updates and sobriety
Here we are not proponents of censorship, neither is the administration being blamed obtusely for not taking correct decisions at times of need.
However, the Rajsamand incident last month and the effect on routine life in adjoining areas, specially Udaipur resulted in the Internet being shutdown completely except for certain services like hospitals, banks and educational institutions. Digital India, Digital Rajasthan and digital whatever, needs and believes that Internet is a life line for effective business services.
Thousands of people were affected with their daily work needs and when I put in this message in an earlier post, we received comments saying that a few days work being affected is better than the chaos social media would create.
In the ongoing Maharashtra situation, when parts of the state including Mumbai were affected, Internet services WERE NOT BLOCKED…being a major global business hub, this was not practical but possible. However, the administration sent out a request, saying that people should verify facts before reacting to messages on social media.
It is understandable that the administration in Udaipur and nearby areas was concerned of the situation getting out of hand if social media was active, but, even with the Internet down, bulk SMS was possible and the Internet was active in Rajsamand and Chittor and other nearby towns when it was shut down in Udaipur for three days.
The administration should realise that it is not government, but administration, which consists of people who are highly literate and have access to high end technical experts that have the mandate to take the call.
A comment by a senior BSNL officer at a function on 27 Dec, where he said that for the purpose of administring and maintaining law and order Internet shutdown is the ONLY option and that blocking Social sites is not possible technically, just speaks out loud on the callous attitude of government officials and knee jerk reactions of “All or nothing” being the only solution resorted to.
Lets talk about the shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir in April 2017. When due to the ongoing strife and highly critical curfew situation in 2016, the governement had ONLY shutdown mobile (GSM and 3G) services while other services were active, in 2017, ONLY social media sites were blocked (22 social media sites).
Is the Udaipur administration not able to take note of such precedence? China has a great firewall blocking Facebook, WhatsApp and other foreign sites across the country. The same is possible for specific area gateways.
Blocking of services not only affects routine businesses, but for Udaipur, which runs heavily on tourism, it affects services for foreign and local tourists who rely heavily on connectivity, hotels, relying on internet bookings, UBER. OLA and other online services such as RedBus, OYO, etc which have to an extent become the backbone of tourism and routine business travel.
Let Udaipur learn from authorities in other areas, viz. J&K and Maharashtra being the live reference point. Mumbai and all parts of Maharashtra had running Internet services. It was only in Aurangabad on 3 Jan and that to, for only a few hours that the services on SOCIAL MEDIA sites only was blocked.
Infiltration even after Internet is blocked, does not restrict anti-social elements to cause chaos. Banning Internet does NOTHING to prevent spread of rumors through word of mouth, SMS, phone calls, or any plain old propaganda. Instead, it stops people to get right and authentic information, which goes a long way in quelling anxieties and unrest. Administration can use internet and social media smartly to provide up-to-date information, updates and sobriety.