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Coronavirus pandemic | Internet restrictions hinder fight against COVID-19 in Kashmir

Internet curbs are also hindering efforts to educate children

April 01, 2020 / 01:33 AM IST

In 2019, India experienced more internet shutdowns than any other country in the world, despite being the world’s largest democracy. The latest report by Access Now, a digital rights advocacy group, found that the Indian government shut down the internet 121 times in 2019, Venezuela came in second with 12.

Internet shutdowns place restrictions on freedom of the press and one could argue, infringe on human rights. During the global coronavirus pandemic, with India currently facing a lockdown, the internet is emerging as the primary bastion for information about the virus. Kashmir is already facing issues in training doctors and spreading information about the virus.

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On March 30, the health ministry invited doctors in the state to an online training session on managing ventilators, critical equipment for patients with COVID-19. However, most doctors were unable to attend the training session because of the long-running curbs on the internet in the region.

Kashmir has seen the longest-running Internet shutdown, with the government only restoring limited 2G mobile internet in January. According to a Gadget 360 report, Dr Suhail Naik, the president of Kashmir’s main doctors’ association, said education drives seen in other parts of India about coronavirus symptoms have been impossible to run in Kashmir.

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Dr Naik said, “We want to educate people through videos, which is not possible at 2G speed. We are handicapped in the absence of high-speed internet.”

The Internet Freedom Foundation said internet speeds in Kashmir were 'woefully insufficient' to spread the message about the combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, internet curbs are also hindering efforts to educate children. GN Var, President of the All Private Schools Association in Kashmir, said that online classes were prepared for 6,50,000 children studying in their schools but cannot be used because of slow internet speeds.

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Carlsen Martin
first published: Mar 31, 2020 03:11 pm

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