Shutdown of services across Valley costs companies nearly Rs5 crore per day

The telecom sector in Kashmir has repeatedly been ordered to shut services during the past four years. It suffered the most crippling closure during the ongoing unrest, which significantly impacted its revenue.
The latest shutdown of telecom services in the Kashmir valley was ordered by the state government on July 8 immediately after the encounter of militant commander Burhan Wani.
Even though most of the services had been restored, mobile Internet services continued to remain shut for the past 108 days.
Jammu and Kashmir has a subscriber base of approximately 10 million, of which 52.63 per cent are rural subscribers, according to the latest data compiled by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
The initial shutdown, ordered on the evening of July 8, included the entire private wireless telecom sector with both postpaid and prepaid services.
The prepaid subscriber base had remained the worst hit and had been restored only last week after a shutdown lasting three months.
The economic cost of the shutdown of telecom services had been severe and was estimated to be Rs 5 crore per day.
“We lose approximately Rs 5 crore in Kashmir during each day of the shutdown,” said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India.
He said they had written to the Centre about the inconvenience and problems caused to citizens by the shutdown and sought an alternative. “Unfortunately, we have not found an alternative way,” he said.
“We are obligated to follow government directions and cannot decide independently. We have to follow if the government says there is a security issue and we have to shut. We don’t have a choice,” he said.
The state government, facing unrest sparked by the killing of the militant commander in July, had been instant in its response by imposing curfew and ordering a blanket shutdown of telecom services.
Naeem Akhter, minister and government spokesman, said the shutdown of telecom services had come under law and order management “following evidence that it was being actively used to foment trouble”.
“If there is any other option, I will personally recommend it. But apparently, there is no other option available,” he said.
Sources in the telecom industry said the prepaid base, which was shut for more than three months, formed the main component of the sector and comprised between 90 per cent and 94 per cent of connections.
The sources said the estimated loss suffered by the sector in the Kashmir valley over the past three months was between Rs 200 crore and Rs 300 crore.
“The loss suffered by the sector will be difficult to recover during the next four quarters. The big question will be subscriber behaviour towards private companies,” said an official of a private telecom company.
This year, the state administration had ordered shutdown of mobile phone services in districts where counter-insurgency operations were launched.
The measure was aimed at preventing crowds from gathering near encounter sites. This was the fourth consecutive year that the telecom sector had been partially or completely shut.
Last year, the telecom sector was attacked by a rebel militant outfit, which asked companies to shut operations in the region, causing a paralysing effect on services for almost a month.

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