(AFP File Photo)
(AFP File Photo)

Ram Rahim rape verdict: Ban on internet brings Chandigarh, Panchkula to a standstill

Mobile internet services have been suspended for 72 hours in the city and two states ahead of the court verdict in rape case against the Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
By Aneesha Bedi | Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON AUG 25, 2017 01:40 PM IST

Businesses and online booking services across Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana have been badly hit following ban on mobile internet services.

Mobile internet services have been suspended for 72 hours in the city and two states ahead of the court verdict in the sexual exploitation case against the Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh post lunch on Friday.

The decision was taken in a coordination committee meeting of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh held under the chairmanship of Punjab governor and UT administrator VP Singh Badnore. The order says SMSes, all dongle services provided on mobile networks except voice calls would remain suspended. Banking, trading, travel, manufacturing and other services that depend on internet connectivity will be affected for three days.

Parv Sharma, a research analyst at a company that looks at market research, devices and area connectivity, told HT: “Though we can make a phone call, but in emergency situations, we are dependent on doing things that are just a ping away, be it doctors or booking cabs.” He said such a ban is common in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir. The authorities should not have pressed the panic button, he said.

Petrol pumps are also refusing to accept money by card due to lack of proper connectivity and demanding payment only by cash.

Daily needs hit

“It’s a communication problem, an economic problem, and a problem of freedom of expression. I don’t think this is justified,” said Charu, a student of Panjab University.

“We usually order vegetables from online grocery store and 72 hours ban on mobile internet is too much. I don’t know how to go about it,” said a homemaker.

“I get all my orders online, on WhatsApp and Facebook. The internet ban means no work for next three days,” said a city trader who deals in readymade garments.

The 72 hours will be tough for those who prefer online banking. “I use my mobile phone for all online transactions. But in the absence of internet facility, it will not be make payments, not even pay my credit card and bills online,” said a city-based professional.

For some, it has ruined their weekend plans. “Let alone train cancellations, we can’t even make bookings online for cabs,” said Sheaba, an entrepreneur based in Mohali.

Lawyers and other professionals have their own share of worries. “In the past few years, internet has become part and parcel of our life. We have our case filing, details, and case lists online. Though the courts are open, but our work has been paralysed,” said Gurshamshir Waraich, a Chandigarh-based advocate.

“I don’t prefer carrying cash and make payments through Paytm even at grocery stores. But how will I make payments now? questioned a city-based resident.

PU elections impacted

Meanwhile, the student elections of Panjab University have been hit by this sudden development.As the student organisations had planned to campaign on social media, a blow has shattered their hopes. Mobile internet services will also be shut down for the next 72 hours in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh. No bulk messages, no Facebook, no WhatsApp.“It’s too bad a situation. As colleges are closed, we had planned to campaign on social media. However, that too is not an option now,” said Prabh Grewal of ABVP unit in DAV College, Sector 10.

Harpreet Kaur of Indian National Students Organisation (INSO) at Post Graduate Government College, Sector 11, said, “We are campaigning in the hostel. However, if the situation becomes tense, students will want to go home. Though we really hope that the situation remains peaceful.”

Blow to Friday box office

The Friday box office is expected to suffer huge losses as panic due the verdict in the Gurmeet Ram Rahim rape case has led to many cinemas declaring a total shutdown. Others are going empty as people want to stay put inside their houses. With not one or two, but 10 films shaving released on Friday.

PVR Cinemas in IT Park, Chandigarh, Rajhans Cinemas and Fun Cinemas in Panchkula, all have declared a complete shutdown. INOX, Amravati Enclave, Panchkula, have cancelled some evening shows. Others in the tricity are still waiting it out.

The footfall at some of these prominent malls in the region like the Elante Mall and North Country Mall is also not as high as other weekends since people have chosen not to step out of their houses due to the curfew-like situation.

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