Mobile Internet services were completely restored in strife-torn Manipur after 143 days on Saturday owing to the “improved” law-and-order situation in the state, a development welcomed by students, relief workers and businessmen.
The services resumed soon after Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh told a media conference in Imphal that Internet connectivity, banned as a precautionary measure following the outbreak of ethnic violence on May 3, “will be restored for the public from today”.
A state home department order noted that the director-general of police had on Friday said incidents of violence had “comparatively lessened” and the “law-and-order situation has improved”, making a “request to relax the suspension of Internet/mobile data, MMS services in the territorial jurisdiction of... Manipur in view of the positive development”.
The order mentioned that mobile data services were banned on May 3, initially for five days following a report by the police chief on the volatile situation in Manipur, and were extended from time to time.
“Now, therefore, the Governor of Manipur is pleased to revoke all orders issued regarding suspension of mobile data services under Rules 2 of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, and hereby orders the restoration of MMS over mobile service providers/ mobile Internet/data services in the territorial jurisdiction of... Manipur normally with effect from 23-09-2023,” the home department, which is under the chief minister, said in its order.
Several people had moved the High Court of Manipur seeking restoration of Internet services.
On the direction of the court, the government reinstated broadband services on July 25 with conditions, including a signed undertaking by the subscriber.
The court had asked the BJP-led state government again on August 10 to come up with a mechanism to whitelist mobile numbers to which Internet services could be made available.
The government continued to extend the ban, apprehending the spread of disinformation and rumours through various social media platforms.
The ongoing conflict has claimed the lives of 176 people and displaced over 67,000 from both the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities.
A student leader, an NGO relief worker and a businessman said they were happy to be back online since the ban had adversely impacted their activities.
Students in both the hills and the valley welcomed the restoration as they can now “easily access” their course materials, the student leader said.
A relief worker from one of the hill districts said services were restored around 2.30pm but the speed “is very slow”.
“Still we are elated. It will help us easily connect with donors and suppliers of goods to relief camps. It was very difficult to easily connect with people who wanted to help, to place orders and make payments because it is tough to commute freely owing to safety issues,” she said.
An Imphal-based businessman said they faced problems with banking and tax because of the ban. “The speed is slow but it is still a welcome development. We can now easily bank online and also sort out our GST and income tax payments,” he said.