Farmers’ protest: Internet shutdown hits education, healthcare, businesses in Haryana - Hindustan Times
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Farmers’ protest: Internet shutdown hits education, healthcare, businesses in Haryana

By, Karnal
Feb 19, 2024 07:46 AM IST

In view of the ongoing farmers’ protest on Punjab borders, the Haryana government extended the ban on mobile internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts by two more days till Monday.

In view of the ongoing farmers’ protest on Punjab borders, the Haryana government extended the ban on mobile internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts by two more days till Monday.

Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district, on Sunday. (PTI)
Farmers listen to a leader at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border during their 'Delhi Chalo' protest, near Patiala district, on Sunday. (PTI)

This was the fourth time the department of home affairs extended the ban, first imposed for two days from February 11 in seven districts of Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa.

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The order issued by additional chief secretary (ACS), home, TVSN Prasad mentioned that on account of misuse of internet services by way of spread of inflammatory material and false rumours and “in order to stop the spread of misinformation and rumours through social media…. for facilitation and mobilisation of mobs of agitators and demonstrators...” the ban was imposed.

According to “Internet Shutdowns” run by Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Center India (SFLC), a not-for-profit organisation working in the field of digital freedom and rights, this is for the 33rd time, Haryana has imposed/extended ban on internet since 2012, when it started recording such instances.

Haryana now stands at 4th position in the country with Uttar Pradesh and after Jammu Kashmir (433), Rajasthan (100) and Manipur (45), it said. Another organisation, Internet Freedom Foundation, suggests that such shutdowns may backfire, as they disrupt communication channels essential for peaceful protests and could potentially incentivise disorganised violence.

In Haryana, the ban has impacted education, businesses, healthcare and other associated services in the areas and the vulnerable class remains at the receiving end.

The prevailing situation has largely affected online education in government schools, where board exams are approaching for secondary classes at the end of this month, while exams of classes 9 and 11 are underway and tablets provided to them are of no use.

Sheenam, a student of Class 12 at a school in Kurukshetra, said she is unable to access online educational videos in the SIM card-enabled tablets to prepare for the exams.

Amit Chhabra, a JBT teacher at a school in Ambala, said, “This is a difficult situation for teachers as we are dependent on online education for homework, preparation and other tasks. In the absence of adequate teachers, the dependence has been increased on tablets.”

Kurukshetra University on Thursday ordered postponing of examinations of various courses of the Centre for Distance and Online Education and MA/MSc fourth semester (special) reappear examination till further orders.

The impact can also be seen on candidates appearing for government exams, as they are unable to access important announcements like release of admit cards and others.

For the healthcare sector, the delay in service allocation remains a huge challenge for field staff.

A senior health official said that due to lack of internet, they are unable to access e-mails or WhatsApp messages and thus timely resolve complaints.

Surekha, state president of ASHA workers association, said the staff is unable to conduct online surveys and ANMs are updating details of immunisation at the PHCs.

The business and industries in the region are also not left untouched. Asia’s largest cloth market of Ambala now feels the heat, so does the plywood industry in Yamunanagar as both are unable to dispatch orders for Punjab due to increased carriage charges.

Gori Sharma, who runs a clothing business in Ambala, said trading during the ongoing wedding season remains impacted as retail online payments are disabled and wholesale orders are stuck due to lack of Wi-Fi at his outlet.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Bhavey Nagpal is a staff correspondent based at Karnal. He reports on crime, politics, health, railways, highways, and civic affairs for northern Haryana districts.

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