After nearly six months, prepaid mobile phone service will be restored in Jammu and Kashmir. Officials said voice calls and SMS are being restored for prepaid mobile connections, in the latest measure to relax some of the severe restrictions enforced since August 5 last year.
2G internet services will also be restored with some restrictions on postpaid SIM cards in Bandipora and Kupwara districts of Kashmir and 10 other districts of Jammu, senior officer Rohit Kansal said at a news conference. The access will be limited to government-approved whitelisted sites, the official said.
In Jammu, the government had announced restoration of restricted 2G services early this week but due to stringent conditions, the telecom operators are yet restore the service.
Mr Kansal said before giving mobile internet connectivity on prepaid connections, the telecom service providers will have to verify the credentials of the subscribers, he said.
The centre had enforced a strict communications blackout in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year, when it scrapped the erstwhile state's special status under Section 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into two union territories. The extended blackout, which now includes the world's longest internet shutdown, has been criticised by many in India and abroad, including the United Nations and the US government.
Early this week, government announced to restore broadband internet for institutions and government offices in Kashmir Valley. Social networking sites, however, will remain under complete restriction, the government order said.
The government said it will establish 400 internet kiosks after installing firewalls and whitelisting of sites to run essential services only. The access was limited to authorised persons only and common people still have no access to internet.
The decision to restore connectivity partially came after the Supreme Court, in response to a petition last week, ordered a review of all the restrictive orders that are still in place within a week. "Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power," the court said.
But the Jammu and Kashmir government has been accused of trying to circumvent the verdict and making access to internet even more difficult.