Five months after internet was axed in Jammu and Kashmir, wireline broadband internet is finally back in 80 government hospitals, the centre said on Thursday. At Srinagar's GB Pant hospital, the biggest children's hospital in Kashmir, doctors however say it has been restricted to administrative purposes only.
The doctors claim they still have no access to internet for medical research and academics.
The limited restoration may help the poor people who were badly impacted due to the internet shutdown. The Ayushman Bharat scheme which helps poor people to get free medical care by using online golden card issued by the government was out of reach for many due to the shutdown.
Hospital authorities have claimed that many patients could not be helped due to internet blockade.
"After internet shutdown on August 5, we could not process any Ayushman Bharat case for 25 days. All the patients who came with Ayushman Bharat cards could not be helped," Dr Muzaffar Jan, deputy medical superintendent of GB Pant hospital, said.
The doctor said 25 days later they started processing cases offline. He said they collected 10-15 cases to be processed at the Deputy Commissioner's office which had internet. Many, he adds, were left out.
As per hospital records, over 20 poor patients on an average were getting free medical treatment under the Ayushman Bharat scheme every month. The records, accessed by NDTV, show that after August 1, the hospital didn't process any Ayushman Bharat case till October 18.
The affected people say they have been pleading before health officials to accept their free medical scheme cards in both private and government hospitals but due to prolonged internet shutdown, they were denied free healthcare.
"My wife has Ayushman Bharat card but due to internet shutdown, hospitals are not accepting and I'm not being able to avail free health care," Mohammad Ashraf said, whose wife is admitted in a Srinagar hospital.
Students have also voiced their concern over internet usage being restricted to administrative purposes only.
Saba, a postgraduate student in paediatrics, says it took her more than three month to collect online references to submit her thesis which otherwise was just a click away.
Sanjeev Singh, adoctor at the GB Pant hospital, says his postgraduate studies in paediatrics has suffered a great deal due to internet shutdown.
"I have suffered a great deal due to prolonged internet shutdown. I want internet for medical research, academics and students. Please restore it for these critical areas," Dr Sanjeev appealed.
Jammu and Kashmir is facing the world's longest internet shutdown with medical facilities and educational institutions also facing a ban since Article 370 was revoked and the state was bifurcated into two union territories.