The next small step in easing the clampdown in the Kashmir Valley is likely to be a further opening up of telecom curbs. Senior officials in the state administration said they are pushing for opening up post-paid BSNL mobile connections in the Valley immediately.
According to officials, J&K Police has advocated this relaxation in internal meetings and a decision is expected at the earliest. The second step in restoring communication may be in the direction of allowing Internet services for commercial organisations.
Senior government officials said opening up of wireless services will positively impact the attendance of children in schools. “Though primary, middle and secondary schools have been reopened, student attendance is practically nil because parents do not feel comfortable given their inability to communicate with schools given the uneasiness that lies beneath the calm in the Valley,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified.
While the exact number of post-paid BSNL mobile subscribers is not immediately available, the TRAI’s telecom subscription data — as on June 30, 2019 — shows that BSNL’s wireless subscriber base in J&K stood at 11.88 lakh. Its market share in wireless services is just about 10 percent.
Bharti Airtel is the market leader in the state with 55.75 lakh wireless subscribers or a 48.5 per cent share, followed by Reliance Jio, which has 35.69 lakh subscribers and a market share of 31 per cent. But the officials said, opening up of post-paid mobile connectivity of private operators may be still some time away.
The government had said landline telephone services were restored in most parts of the Valley by August 25. In the second week of September, it also partly restored post-paid mobile phone services in Kupwara district.
All communication was snapped on August 5 in the state after the government abrogated Article 370 and decided to split the state into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.―Indian Express