Surviving without internet since May 3Defeats cashless economy
Till the time of jotting down this commentary late in the day, no word yet had come from the side of the Government on whether the ban on mobile internet would continue or not. The Sangai Express had already commented on how the internet suspension had greatly inconvenienced the media establishments (this was before special arrangements were made for the media houses in Imphal which entailed running through the corridors of power and going from one official to the other, even necessitating a meeting with the Security Advisor to the Government of Manipur) as well as doing something as basic and necessary as sending the monthly mess fees to children studying outside Manipur. Manipur has been without mobile internet service since the evening of May 3, when trouble broke out in all its ugliness at Churachandpur and soon spread to the other districts, save for the Naga dominated districts. After days of internet suspension, broadband service was restored, but how many in Manipur can avail broadband service is a question which no one has given a serious thought to. How many households have broadband connection, whether it is BSNL, Jio or Airtel ? No definite answer as yet and such connection comes with its share of downside as well as it cannot function without electricity and power supply can and do snap anytime in the day and night. For over five months or over 150 days, Manipur has been surviving without internet and this has meant a big blow to businesses, the student community as well as job seekers who need to look up the internet for any opening as well as for filling up forms and applying for any openings. There are reasons why the question of whether mobile internet ban will go or will continue is of interest to The Sangai Express and this interest mainly centres around the grand announcement made by the Chief Minister at Ukhrul on October 18 that the ban would be lifted soon. The reality however tells a contrasting tale for just three days later, that is on October 21, the Government announced yet another extension of the ban on mobile internet. No wonder, the October 21 internet ban announcement came like a bucket of cold water after a hot shower !
Not surprisingly the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur has not taken kindly to the latest extension of the mobile internet ban. Already an agitation is on at the Naga dominated district headquarters with the student body warning that more intense form of agitation may follow if the Government remains adamant. This is the situation at the moment, but it should also be noted that the Government has its reasons for restricting public’s accessibility to the internet in the presence of numerous key board warriors and heroes as well as to check the spread of fake news. However the grouse of ANSAM sounds genuine. The argument that the Nagas have remained neutral and hence the prolonged internet ban in areas where the Nagas dominate is unjustified sounds logical but then none can dismiss the possibility of anyone from the warring side to sneak in and spread venom. Plus one is talking about Manipur and dividing the place into Meitei-Naga-Kuki areas may not be politically prudent. As stated in the opening sentence of this commentary, it is not yet clear whether the Government would lift or extend the ban, but let no one forget that internet connection was found opened on the sly at Churachandpur some time back. Manipur knows what action has been taken up by the company concerned against their erring staff, but what action has the Government taken up ? This is a question which has not been raised effectively so far and this should worry the Government. Whichever way one looks at it, the fact stands that Manipur has been without mobile internet service for over 150 days now and this can certainly be crippling for anyone and one wonders what has happened to the cashless economy model so enthusiastically pursued by the Prime Minister.
Correction : Please refer to the editorial dated 26th Oct. The third line in the first para should read as Chief Minister N Biren