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January 15, 2020

India lost Rs201b to Internet shutdowns last year


January 15, 2020

NEW DELHI: India lost more than $1.33 billion (PKR Rs201 billion) to internet restrictions in 2019 as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pushed ahead with his party’s Hindu nationalist agenda, raising tensions and sparking nationwide protests.

The worst shutdown has been in held Kashmir, where after intermittent closures in the first half of the year, the internet has been cut off since August 5 following the government’s decision to revoke the special autonomous status of the country’s only Muslim majority state, a study said. The prolonged closure was criticised by India’s highest court, which ruled Friday that the “limitless” internet shutdown enforced by the government for the last five months was illegal and asked that it be reviewed, reported foreign media.

India court finds indefinite restrictions in Kashmir illegal: India imposed more internet restrictions than any other large democracy, according to the Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2019 report released by Top10VPN, a UK-based digital privacy and security research group. The South Asian nation recorded the third-highest losses after Iraq and Sudan, which lost $2.31 billion and $1.86 billion respectively to disruptions. Worldwide internet restrictions caused losses worth $8.05 billion, the report said.

The cost of internet blackouts were calculated using indicators from groups including the World Bank, International Telecommunication Union, and the Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Center. It includes social media shutdowns in its calculations.

Through 2019, India shut access to the internet for over 4,000 hours. The report added shutdowns in India were often narrowly targeted, down to the level of blocking city districts for a few hours to allow security forces to restore order. Many of these incidents were not included in the report.

“These are conservative estimates,” said Simon Migliano, head of research at UK-based Top10VPN. “Internet shutdowns are increasing and it shows a damaging trend.”

India’s other major internet disruptions coincided with two moves by the government that affect India’s Muslim minority. The first disruption took place in November in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan after the Supreme Court handed a victory to Hindu groups over Muslim petitioners in a long simmering dispute over a plot of land.

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