Internet shutdown affects everyday life

Staff Reporter

ITANAGAR, 17 Jan: Mobile internet service was temporarily shut down in the Itanagar Capital Region (ICR) for 48 hours, from 5 pm of 12 January, prior to the 36-hour bandh enforced by an organization from 13 January morning. It threw life out of gear and at the same time violated the laid down laws.

Yanam (name changed) is a student of Rajiv Gandhi University doing her master’s degree and taking lessons online for the civil services examination.

She was among many students who missed online coaching classes due to the internet shutdown. She said that the shutdown also affected her reading online, apart from preventing her from staying connected with friends and relatives and accessing information through social networking sites.

“(I) missed classes. I was unable to read online and get news updates due to the internet blackout,” she said.

“I missed an important national level seminar on right to food issue. The files were stored in cloud and I could not open them due to the shutdown,” said Itanagar Permanent Bench of Gauhati High Court lawyer Madan Milli.

Another person said that, in general, the shutdown affected the people at all levels. “Internet is a must for everyone, especially for those students who are preparing for various examinations, CBSE examinations, and attending classes online,” she said.

The students are worried because their courses might not be completed before the examinations, she said.

The CBSE Term 2 board examinations, 2022 are scheduled to be conducted from March.

She further stated that, in view of the Covid pandemic, people don’t keep much money with them and transactions are done online. “They were unable to send or receive money due to the switching off,” she opined.

She, however, said that the shutdown did not affect her much as she did have some other options to keep herself busy.

When asked how the internet shutdown affected his department, ICR DMO Dr Mandip Perme said that the health department was unable to receive district-wise data on the ongoing Covid-19 testing and Covid-19-related vaccination owing to the internet shutdown.

“Many of the staffers faced difficulty receiving and sending the district-wise data due to the shutdown,” he said.

State Epidemiologist Dr L Jampa expressed regret that he could not share the daily Covid bulletin with the media houses because of the internet blackout.

The last-minute shutdown order issued on 12 January brought all services that ride on the internet to a complete stop, causing great inconvenience to the users. The justification for passing the order was “to prevent occurrence of serious law and order problem during the bandh.”

As per the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules introduced in 2017 under the Telecom Regulatory Act, 1885, a shutdown order can only be passed by the home secretary to the government of India or the state government in case of ‘public emergency’, or in the ‘interest of public safety’.

“In unavoidable circumstances, where obtaining of prior direction is not feasible, such order may be issued by an officer not below the rank of a joint secretary to the government of India or the state home secretary in the states,” the rule says.

The order must include the reason(s) for the decision (to shut down the internet).

As per the rule, the shutdown order must be sent to a review committee the day after it is issued, and must be reviewed by the committee within five days to deliberate the validity of the reason(s).

In the case of states, the chief secretary will be the chairman of such a review committee. Many people may not be aware of this rule, but they should be.

The first known internet shutdown in India took place in the then Jammu & Kashmir for a few hours in 2012. Since then, the country has witnessed a total of 552 shutdowns, according to, which has been tracking mobile internet shutdowns in India since 2012. Mobile internet was shut down 45 times in India last year.

Arunachal stands in the 11th position among the Indian states and UTs with six instances of internet shutdown.

Internet was switched off for several days in 2019 during the anti-PRC agitation in the ICR. Nowadays, internet is also shut down during some competitive examinations in the capital area to prevent cheating in the examinations.

A day’s or even an hour’s internet shutdown can cause heavy losses to the economy, which can run into lakhs of crores of rupees.

As per, India suffered a loss of around $ 582.8 million due to internet shutdowns in 2021.

Apart from the common people, students and the business community, the journalists and the media houses also face great problems during such shutdowns. During the anti-PRC riots, the civil secretariat was haunted by media persons to file stories after the internet was cut off for several days. Some media houses had even suspended publication for several days.

In the last shutdown also, the media houses faced a similar problem in bringing out their dailies.

Since freedom of the press, access to information, and doing business through the internet are fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution, it is obvious that such shutdowns curtail people’s constitutional rights sometimes, if not every time.

How far was it justifiable when mobile internet was cut off during the pandemic time? How far is it justifiable when students are attending classes online, registration for Covid vaccination is done online, and vital health-related information is sent and received through the internet?