Of internet shutdown


A panicky state, poor on governance and high on rhetoric resorts to internet shutdown at the drop of a hat. Other measures such as stopping Meghalaya bound people at Jorabat when they are tourists that had planned their trips well in advance also reflect poorly on the decision-makers. The decision to stop all celebrations is well taken as the people of Meghalaya are grieving at the loss of five precious lives even while many are fighting for their lives in hospital. But the internet is the lifeline of a modern state. Shutting down the internet implies that the state is unsure about whether it is in a position to maintain law and order. At best this is a hasty decision by the Home Department which has at one stroke sent Meghalaya back to the dark ages. When even vegetable vendors and other small vendors are accepting payment via G-Pay, the internet shut-down is like killing a fly with a sledgehammer since all electronic payments have ceased.
Shutting down the internet is also restricting freedom of speech and expression as people are unable to communicate over WhatsApp or to use other social media platforms. A timid state feels that internet shutdown is the only way to prevent trouble from boiling over. Now suppose some cantankerous groups want to put the government on the mat not just for the Mukroh incident but also for any other issue that has the potential to affect the electoral prospects of the ruling party/parties, will the internet be shut down then too? There are people today that are given medical guidance over WhatsApp. Simply because a few irresponsible people want to capitalise from human misery should the State take the arbitrary decision to shut down the internet? Just think of the inconvenience caused for those wishing to book train or flight tickets online? Or even those who need to remit funds elsewhere via RTGS etc. Internet shutdown is a sign that the Government is insecure and why is that so? Because the Government does not believe that its police machinery can tackle any breakdown of law and order? And why have police arrived at this point? Because they are used by politicians and are at their beck and call instead of securing the lives of citizens.
A report by TOP10VPN says that in 2020, India was on internet shutdown for over 8,900 hours, affecting 10.3 million users and causing $2.7 billion in economic losses. In a nutshell, an internet shutdown is bad for the users as well as the economy. India is among the top 3 fastest-growing internet markets. Yet it is unfortunate that individual states of India resort to internet shutdown to ease themselves of the responsibility of maintaining the rule of law. Will Meghalaya Government release a finding on how much financial loss the present internet shutdown has caused?