Internet ban in Gujarat upsets people, business

The ban on mobile-based internet services in Ahmedabad almost a week after the two day unrest triggerd by a mammoth rally organised by the Patel community to press for their demand of OBC status and quota benefits in the education and government jobs, is upsetting citizens who feel the government’s crackdown on the internet is “illogical and an attack on their freedom of speech.”

On Monday, government lifted the ban on the internet services on mobile across the State, but continued it in Ahmedabad and Surat, two largest cities with more than one crore population, and both economic and business power house of the State. Police felt that “some miscreants can create problems while circulating video clips of clashes between the police and the citizens during the two day violence” that had forced the authorities to call in army and paramilitary forces.

“The mobile-based internet services would remain suspended for two more days in Ahmedabad and Surat,” a police official said on Monday.

However, the government’s online curfew is frustrating citizens, businessmen, students and others. “This is pathetic that the government, which claimed that normalcy has returned to Gujarat continues the internet blockage on mobiles,” said a 35-year-old businessman in Navarangpura area of Ahmedabad.

“No Whatsapp, no Facebook, no SMS or MMS and no Twitter. Everything is shut by the police. I just can’t believe that it’s happening in a state like Gujarat,” said Neha Shah, a student in Gujarat university.

The week-long blockage by the government has affected online businesses and banking transactions, which are increasingly done on mobile-based applications on smartphones. “It’s been very difficult to work for last one week without internet on mobile. We have taken a huge hit in the online transactions,” said an angry executive of a private bank.

“The government is not realising the damage the internet blockage has done to the businesses in the state. Mobile internet has become a basic of all your businesses, trading and other activities. It’s ridiculous that they still continue the ban. Booking online tickets or airlines or trains, using credit cards or online shopping have halted without internet,” a mobile company executive told The Hindu, disclosing that “the mobile services providers have lost around Rs. 25 crore in revenue due to online blockage.”

Meanwhile, according to sources in the government, the police authorities fear that violence could flare up again as using the social media platforms, some people would circulate video clips showing the police allegedly breaking in the Patel-dominated societies, beating women and smashing cars.

The Gujarat government has suspended mobile-based internet services on August 25 midnight after violence broke out engulfing the state when the police briefly arrested Hardik Patel, a 22-year-old leader of the Patel agitation.

During the two-day unrest, 10 people were killed while several hundred government-owned buses were torched, public properties vandalised, and several police set ups were set on fire by mobs that had gone berserk with the police force.