Apart from the frequent statewide ban, local administrations in 13 districts also use their discretionary power to suspended Internet services.
In the last one year, internet services, especially mobile Internet, went off every third day in Rajasthan. With total 56 partial and complete shutdowns in a year, it is second in the country after troubled J&K in terms of data curbs.
Jaipur: Internet services were suspended across Rajasthan once again last Sunday. The ostensible reason was to stop cheating during the preliminary examination for Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) by Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC).
This was the third Internet shutdown in three weeks. On July 14 and 15, Internet services were stopped from 8 am to 6 pm, when Rajasthan police conducted constable recruitment exams. Mobile Internet services went off every third day during last one year. With 56 partial and complete shutdowns in a year, Rajasthan is second in the country after trouble-torn Jammu & Kashmir in terms of enforced Internet blackouts.
Apart from the frequent statewide bans imposed by the Vasundhara Raje government, the local administration in 13 districts used its discretionary powers to suspended internet services on different occasions. Sikar district (15) suffered the most followed by Nagaur (9) and Banswara (8) while remaining districts including state capital Jaipur went offline twice each in a year.
Internet shutdown hits hard life of a common man. Cyber cafes, e-mitra centres, that facilitate various kind of government services online from birth and death certificates to depositing war and electricity bills, are also impacted.
“It’s not just about being unable to use social media or feeling cut off from the rest of the world but also inconvenience. I had a flight to catch and in order to save time and skip long queue at the airport, I wanted to do web check in but couldn’t because there was no internet,” said Kamlesh Kumar, a Jaipur resident.
Internet shutdowns also affected businesses. Booking cabs, ordering food online, booking flight or train tickets and any kind of purchasing using card or e-wallets are out of question.
“Imagine my plight when I had only Rs 300 in my pocket and I ran out of petrol. I went to a petrol pump, completely forgetting that the Net service was not available. I flashed my card to an attendant, asking him to fill up the tank. He told me that the swipe machine was out of order because of Internet shutdown. I simply asked him to fill it up for just Rs 200,” said Dheeraj Mathur, an aggrieved customer.
According to a rough estimate, every time the government pulled the plug on Internet, it resulted in statewide commercial loss Rs 15 crore per day.
The state government stopped the Internet as a preemptive measure to help maintain law and order in some districts on April 2 violence during the Bharat Bandh organised by dalit outfits. It used it again on April 10 when a call for Bharat Bandh was given by upper caste organisations.
The state government has now started using Internet ban during recruitment exams to stop cheating after the police busted a cyber criminal gang that used digital devices for malpractices during the constable recruitment exam in March. The cheating forced the police to cancel the exam.
The Rajasthan high court recently took cognizance of a public interest litigation (PIL) which challenged suspension of internet service for recruitment exams. While issuing notices to the state government’s home secretary, the court asked the government to explain rules that gave it power to suspend Internet services. The court also questioned the BJP government on it future plans to shut Internet during recruitment exams.
Following this, the newly appointed Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) chairman Deepak Upreti announced that Internet services would not be banned during the state administrative service exam. However, on the day of the exam Internet was stopped.
Police sources said that when an exam is held across the state and hundreds of centres are involved it is impossible to block Internet at exam centres only. The Rajasthan Administrative Service preliminary exam was held at close to 1,500 centres so the Internet curbs were statewide.
“We do not have that many jammers to block signals around each exam centre,” a senior police officer said.
What it means is that people will have no escape from “Netbundi” when there will be an exam to recruit school headmasters in September, followed by police sub-inspector combined competitive exam in October.