The Jammu and Kashmir government’s “New Year gift” of restoring the short messaging service to mobile phones and Internet connections to hospitals has turned out to be a premature April Fool’s prank.
The government had on Tuesday announced the restoration of SMS to all post-paid-mobiles and of broadband Internet to hospitals across the Valley by midnight, officials touting it as a New Year’s gift to the people.
But complaints poured in from early Wednesday morning after subscribers, except those with BSNL connections, found that they could not send or receive text messages. Most hospitals were without Internet services. Late in the evening, the situation remained unchanged.
Dr Samir Matoo, the health director who controls all government hospitals except those associated with Srinagar’s Government Medical College, confirmed to The Telegraph in the evening that Internet services had not been restored to any of the hospitals under him.
“It (Internet connectivity) has not been restored so far in any (of these hospitals),” Matoo said.
A doctor at a Budgam hospital said the staff’s hopes had been disappointed.
“Life without Internet is a nightmare, and it has already lasted five months. They kept us waiting and by the end of the day we were all disappointed,” he said.
Kashmir divisional commissioner Baseer Khan said that networks other than BSNL were facing technical issues and these were being sorted out. He said the SMS facility would be restored to all the networks soon.
“It (restoration of broadband Internet to hospitals) is happening. At some places there was the issue of payment (of bills); they (the hospitals) are clearing it.”
Khan said he had checked with Cargo police station (cyber police station, tasked with implementing decisions on mobile and Internet services) and found that 26 hospitals had got Internet connectivity back. The claim could not be independently confirmed.
Another officer said late in the evening that the matter would be sorted out in the next few hours.
The government had imposed a brutal information blockade ahead of the revocation of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state’s special status on August 5.
The restrictions on landlines and post-paid mobiles were gradually eased over a period of months. Prepaid mobile connections are still suspended.
Tuesday’s announcement about the restoration of SMS facilities and broadband Internet services to hospitals had been accompanied with much fanfare.
Earlier, the government had announced an end to the ban on landlines in late August, but full restoration took weeks.
The suspension of Internet services for the past five months has badly affected every sphere of life in the Valley, including health care, education and business.