Carrier network operators in India are losing around $350,000 ~ 24.5 million rupees revenue every hour due to the consecutive Internet shutdowns, sources told Reuters.
Several states have been suspending Internet and messaging services in the wake of the countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The act gives Indian citizenship to the members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan by December 31, 2014. Interestingly, the act excludes Muslims.
Coupled with the NRC [National Register of Citizens], the act jeopardizes the Muslims of India by putting them in a difficult position to prove their citizenship in the subsequent months. Documents that could be used to prove the citizenship are still unclear.
Since the enactment of the act, the country is witnessing clashes between protesters and police, which have claimed the lives of about thirty people. In order to curb the protests, the right-wing ruling party BJP has been actively ordering telecoms to shut down the Internet.
The Cellular Operators Association of India, which comprises several mobile carriers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio told Reuters: “Internet shutdowns should not be the first course of action.”
“We’ve highlighted the cost of these shutdowns…we believe the cost is close to 24.5 million rupees for an hour of internet shutdown,” told COAI director general Rajan Mathews.
Interestingly, India holds the world record for the highest number of Internet shutdowns. There have been at least 374 cut-offs since 2012, and more than 100 alone in 2019. The Indian state Kashmir is witnessing an Internet shutdown for more than 145 days, which is the longest ever in a democracy.
Many human rights associations and free speech activists have condemned the recent Internet shutdowns in the country. Meanwhile, China has praised the actions of the Indian government, calling it “a reasonable choice of sovereign countries based on national interests.”