[Answered] Discuss the economic and social implications of internet shutdowns in India. Use examples to illustrate your points.

Introduction: Give a brief context of the Internet shutdown.

Body: Discuss the economic and social implications of the shutdown in India.

Conclusion: Way forward.

Recently, the administration ordered an internet shutdown in the state of Manipur amid ongoing ethnic violence in the state. Data compiled by global digital rights group Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition reveals that India implemented at least 84 shutdowns in 2022, the most of any country for a year.

What are the economic and social implications of internet shutdowns in India?

  • Huge economic costs: Studies reveal that internet shutdowns have contributed to economic loss and unemployment. For example, the six-month communication shutdown in Kashmir in 2019 caused more than five lakh people to lose their jobs, and shutdowns in Rajasthan during one month in 2021 cost the state Rs 800 crore. According to one estimate, internet outages cost the nation as a whole more than Rs 1,500 crore in 2022, and so far in the first half of 2023, they have cost an estimated Rs 2,091 crore. According to Brookings’ research in 2016 it is estimated that India lost Rs 7,932 crores as a result of closures between July 2015 and June 2016.
  • Effect on vulnerable groups: Internet shutdowns impose huge social and economic costs disproportionately on particular sections of society that engage more with the informal sector, including women, and old people.
  • Less accountability: The flow of information from and to the state is hampered by a lack of access to an open and secure internet and social media, which also makes it more difficult to report the violence and hold those responsible accountable.
  • Effect of digital public infrastructure: Internet shutdowns affect the ability of millions of people who access online services, avail the benefits of government schemes, and make digital payments regularly. This hurts those sections of society who are heavily dependent on government services and have few resources leading to the deepening of the digital divide. It slows down the pace of the Government’s flagship Digital India program.
  • Effect on the social sector: The Internet shutdown imposes high costs on social sectors like health and education. It undermines the teaching process and disrupts communication between teachers and students. The effect on health infrastructure is significant as it disrupts the emergency services, and delivery of medicines and equipment leading to limited exchange between medical personnel and patients.
  • Freedom of Speech: It affects the most basic human right of freedom of expression and access to information which is indispensable for the growth of nation and individual.

Conclusion:

The government should follow the basic directions given by SC in  Anuradha Bhasin’s judgment that shutdown be imposed only when it is proportional, reasonable, necessary, and is the least restrictive measure, which can never be indefinite.

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