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Not a happy new year for many Kashmiris as SMS service resumes only for BSNL users

The J&K administration had announced on 31 December that SMS services in the union territory would be restored from 1 January 2020.

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Srinagar: It wasn’t a very happy new year for most Kashmiris who were looking forward to the resumption of SMS services after five months as the service was restored only for BSNL users.

Kashmir has over 40 lakh post-paid users, of whom only around 13 lakh use BSNL services.

The civil administration on 31 December had announced that SMS services would be restored in the Kashmir Valley after it was blocked in August when the central government scrapped Article 370, taking away J&K’s special status.

SMS services were expected to resume at 12 am on 1 January, officials said at a press conference. They also said broadband internet services for hospitals would resume Wednesday. That too did not happen.

While SMS remained barred for non-government or private network providers until late Wednesday evening, broadband internet service also did not function in at least two hospitals visited by ThePrint.

Government officials, however, maintained that they had directed all mobile companies to start the SMS service.

“There might be a technical fault, but I am sure the companies are working on it,” a senior government official told ThePrint Wednesday.

An Airtel official, requesting anonymity, said, “We are updating our systems and the service will start soon.”

While Vodafone officials refused to comment, officials at Jio could not be reached.

Officials at Srinagar’s Chest Diseases Hospital said their internet continues to be barred.

“We read in the papers that the internet will be resumed but nothing happened. Let’s hope for the best,” said a senior hospital official, requesting anonymity.

At the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, too, officials said broadband service had not been resumed.

Also read: Kashmir suffered Rs 15,000 crore loss since August 5, says commerce body

‘Yet another deception’

Many in the Valley described the government announcement of restoring SMS as a “cruel joke”.

“The government did not specify that SMS will be resumed for BSNL. Newspapers and TV channels created such a hype that SMS service will be started but, instead, we witnessed yet another deception, that too on the first day of the new year,” said Mudasir Shah, who uses a non-BSNL network. One can only imagine how this year is going to be.”

Mutasir Hussain of Srinagar too expressed disappointment but said he was not surprised.

“It’s not like I was looking forward to SMS being restored. Internet is a basic right now and that is being denied to us for 150 days. But first announcing that SMS have started and then hiding this caveat is just adding insult to injury,” he said.

There were, however, some who cheered the resumption of SMS services.

Abid Khan, a PR professional in Srinagar said he was able to send Happy New Year wishes to some of his friends who use BSNL.

For the 40 lakh post-paid users, voice calls were restored in October. Kashmir also has around 26 lakh prepaid users for whom all services — voice call, SMS and internet — remain shut.

Also read: India has wide grounds for internet shutdowns but minimal safeguards – 2019 saw its result


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