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By | Uzma Saleem Malik |

IK. Opinion Columnist

The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was under complete lockdown since the BJP-led Union Government’s decision in August 2019 to repeal and revoke the special status of the state of J&K (Now UT) by nullifying Article 370, adduced by NDA government as one of the stumbling blocks in the development of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. On 8th August 2019, following the approval of j&k Reorganization bill by parliament, PM Modi while addressing the nation said: “More than 1.5 crore people of j&k are underprivileged and unable to access the benefits of those laws and policies which are being  enacted from time to time for the benefit of the rest of the country, He further said, Imagine the children in rest of the country  having access to basic and good education while the children in Jammu and Kashmir are still deprived of this right.”
Furthermore, the Union Government of India, claimed that the “Jammu and Kashmir reorganization act 2019” was made to macadamize a better way of administration, governance economic as well as social development in the UT of j&k. The landmark decision of 5th August 2019 was followed by putting the entire region(J&K) into an unprecedented lockdown with absolute communication blackout. Now it has been almost nine-month of misery and anguish among the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Still, the Union Government till now conveyed no impression of development and ease to the people of UT, which they kept bragging about recurrently and repeatedly. Even though the NDA led central Government seems to be less sensitive and more atrocious and clueless towards the people and the future of the J&K.
Over time and with no option left, the life in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is limping towards normalcy at a snail pace. After the decision of 5th August, many assurances and promises were made by the ruling party at the centre that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are soon going to witness lots of constructive and progressive changes in their lives henceforth. Still, regrettably, half a year has gone, but the promises and pledges proved to be mere rhetoric and verbosity. The Union Government has yet to conduct stanch, and proactive measures to recuperate the gone trust of local people of the UT since the abrogation of 370 left the people of UT into bewilderment, disquietude, and belligerence.
Paradoxically in the age of sustainable development where the whole world committed to achieving SDGs by 2030 with a plan of “leaving no one behind,” development and sustainable future of J&k seem to be dwindling and on the back foot as well. On 5th August 2019, Home minister Amit shah, while introducing the Jammu and Kashmir reorganization bill in the upper house of the parliament, argued that the special status of J&K provided under article 370 was one of the leading cause of corruption and terrorism, which further leads towards the remoteness and underdevelopment of the state(Now UT). Undoubtedly, corruption continues to be a significant problem in India  and J&K is no exception, According to an exclusive report of ORF  “Life in Kashmir after 370” January 2020, Many of the people in the state alleged that “the corruption, nepotism, and misgovernance that are held  responsible for the alienation of  erstwhile state are the gifts of New Delhi’s policies, not of Article 370, the doctrine of unconditional appeasement of regional political leaders by the succession of governments at the centre has protected vested interests, trapping the state(Now UT) into a vicious cycle of misgovernance and corruption.”
After the revocation of 370 education and economy of the state are the two major sectors that experienced significant deterioration. the report published by ORF, also suggests that “due to prolong communication blockade, curfews, and lockdowns in the past 6-7  months, the economy of the state experienced a loss of approximately INR 178.78 and more than 90,000 jobs in different sectors of now UT
Moreover, the immediate aftermath through snapping the internet connectivity has been a thistle consistently traumatizing and hurting the emotionalism and sentimentality of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in general and students in particular.
On 15th August, on the eve of the country’s Independence Day, Narendra Modi gave a spanking new drive to his Digital Indian Programme. “Yes, to digital payment   and no to cash.” Without even realizing that his brand new project of digital  India comes crashing down in the valley, and his dream of empowering the common man with the internet and renovating India into a digitally powerful nation has zero significance to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,
The preventive and prolonged suspension of the internet services imposed in the then state (now UT) is yet to be lifted completely (only 2G services have been restored recently).
The continuing internet blockade and denial of 4G restoration in J&k is fervently affecting the future of students, making their potentials indefensible and unsustainable, Universities and colleges are no exemptions, even the libraries of different universities also denied the access to the internet, which leads towards moral and psychological insecurity among the student fraternity in the region, According to the report of ORF, some respondents claim that the students are the worst sufferer in the last 7-8 months, In the age of digital India, students of Jammu and Kashmir have been queued for many hours outside their respective district headquarters to access the internet, and besides wasting their times, they had to stipend the concerned authorities with an amount of 100 to 200 for the submission of their applications, etc.(applications and scholarships forms which required internet connection)
The recent outbreak of covid19 is going to be one of the darkest phases in human history. The entire world is facing the rage of the pandemic. However, the fear and threat of this deadly epidemic have forced nations around the globe to make lockdowns obligatory and necessary in their respective cities, districts, villages to maintain social distancing, the only antidote of this fatal virus so far.
People of Jammu and Kashmir are strictly following and are adhering to the lockdown with utmost responsibility since the UT saw a momentous spike in COVID19 positive cases.
Despites of lockdowns this deadly virus has come with several other challenges in J&K, of which better technology and high-speed internet are demands of the hour, but what hassle the most is. In contrast, the rest of the country having smooth access to online activities like e-learning, e-commerce, finance, healthcare, entertainment, the claimed “integral part of India’’ is still suffering from the harsh abiding policies and wrong attitude of the union government.
Low internet penetration is significantly impacting the ability of UT of j&k to participate in the digital economy, which is nowadays a critical priority for the development of any region.
Therefore, calculatedly shutting down or restricting the access to the internet breaches several rights and can be more lethal during a health crisis, According to Deborah Brown a senior digital rights researcher and advocate said: “Internet    shutdowns block people from getting essential information and services.”
“Moreover, during this global epidemic, these technological shutdowns directly harm people’s health and lives and undermine efforts to bring the pandemic under control.”Since Jammu and Kashmir are also facing the wrath of COVID-19, people in UT have also reported not being able to access some websites that are endowed with information relating to this pandemic due to reduced internet speeds. Therefore, the Government must immediately lift the internet blackout, as delaying the restoration of high-speed internet services will result in further alienating the students and youth of Jammu and Kashmir, who are already in distress and exasperated with the atrocious policies of the central Government. The central Government must realize that now is the time to initiate some serious and sincere decisions and measures to win over the confidence of people of J&K who are feeling betrayed and backstabbed by the BJP led Union Government of India.
The Promised development of J&K is still on the back foot, Educational institutions in J&K remained closed for almost six months, high-speed internet is a distant dream in the age of digital India, the economy has nearly plunged into a downturn.
Sustainable peace is the only way of sustainable development in Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, In order to promote an inclusive, sustainable and harmonious society, it is indispensable to pursue a holistic approach by taking such measures which are merely not to provide immediate solutions to the problems but also help in creating economic and social spaces in the region, so that the local people can recognize, expand and utilize the resources which are necessary for building a peaceful, prosperous and progressive society. Unless there is some form of peace and stability, no human venture, no matter how much power and well connoted, can pave a way forward for any kind of progress and development.

(Author hails from, Rajouri(Darhal), JandK, and currently Research scholar at Aligarh Muslim University.Deptt.of political science.
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