The internet is unarguably a tool that is used by most of the people worldwide. It has grown from being a luxury for a few to a necessity for all. Such high usage of the internet is credited to the fact that it has something to offer to each and every one. Ever since its spread began in the 90s, it has made life easier. It has reduced distances and made the whole world a lot a closer and faster in operation. Needless to say living without the internet is a dreadful dream for most people.
The internet has evolved itself and in the process has evolved processes of mankind’s living in society. All most any activity that humans do in today’s world can be done a little easier with the help of the internet. Be it calling for a cab, buying groceries, watching movies, speaking to a geographically distant friend, the internet has made it all a lot simpler and faster. Therefore the access to the internet is has become a necessity for sustenance of life.
India is one of the countries where internet is very cheap and therefore is even used by people living below the poverty line. India provides a huge number of users to the internet. But that is only when the administration allows its citizens to do so. Shutting down the internet in India is becoming as common in India as its access.
Statistically, India has not only had the maximum number of internet shutdowns in comparison to any other country but also its number is higher than the added total of the rest of countries in a top 10 list. The country has seen a total of 385 instances when internet access was restricted to the people in different states. It began in 2012 when the internet was switched off only thrice but has been increasing ever since. In 2015 it reached double digits as the internet was shut 14 times in that year. 2018 has seen the most number of internet shutdowns in the history of our country, a total of 134 times.
Between Jan 2016 and May 2018, India’s had 154 internet shutdowns whereas the country coming second in the list, Pakistan had only 19 instances. Not only is India the country with the maximum number of internet shutdowns but also one with the highest and ever-increasing margin. As per a report by The Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), a loss of 16,315 hours of internet access has cost the economy a total of $3.04 billion.
Out of the 385 internet shutdowns, 237 were preventive actions done in anticipation of a challenge to law and order situation and 148 were reactive to situations that have already happened. Now it is important to understand that as the internet does not discriminate between its user, restricting access in a region for any situation whatsoever causes a blanket restriction to all people living in that situation. What is important to understand is that instead of restricting the internet it could be used to locate people who are held hostage in the crossfire of situations which affect peace, tranquillity, law and order.
This brings on the necessity of laws governing internet shutdowns in India. The honourable Supreme Court has implied that the right to have access to the internet is a part of the fundamental right of the citizens of the country under their freedom of expression and of trade and profession.
There are businesses and lives that are high, if not completely, dependent on the internet and therefore arises the need to stop these arbitrary restrictions. Proper laws should be made on procedures to be followed and notifications to be given when the internet access in a region has to be restricted.
The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir have been the biggest victims of these arbitrary actions of the administration. Internet restrictions in the UTs are an extremely common affair and are of long durations at a stretch. The longest of which was of 213 days after the state of J&K was broken into the current political divisions. Even after 213 days, only stone-aged 2G internet is available for the people in the valley.