around eight million people had no access to online services
Rajasthan has cut off the internet for millions of people. This has been done to prevent cheating in exams.
The state blocked access during the Rajasthan Eligibility Exams for Teachers (REET), a requirement for all aspiring educators in Rajasthan.
While the test hasn’t run for two years due to changes in national and state guidelines, 1.6 million students sat their test on Sunday, September 27, 2021.
As a result, internet outages were imposed between 6 am to 6 pm to prevent any potential cheating through the likes of messaging apps and social media.
The districts directly affected were Alwar, Dausa, Jhunjhunu and Jaipur.
It has been estimated that around eight million people had no access to online services during that time.
However, wired connections and voice calls were permitted but notably, only around 24 million of India’s 800 million broadband subscriptions are wired.
The Indian Software Freedom Law Centre opposed the shutdown and wrote to Shri Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan since 2018.
In the letter, they said: “Internet shutdowns are bound to cause economic loss, an impact on education, healthcare and other welfare schemes.
“An internet shutdown during a pandemic can be especially grave considering citizens depend on the internet to get information, work and study.
“Shutting down the internet to prevent cheating in exams will be a violation of the Telecom Suspension Rules as well the decision of the honourable Supreme Court of India in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India.”
Under Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled an undefined restriction of internet services would be illegal and that orders for internet shutdown must satisfy the tests of necessity and proportionality.
Meanwhile, netizens had a mix of reactions on social media.
One Twitter user said: “In this current age where the internet is not just a matter of convenience but a necessity, Rajasthan government shuts down internet across Rajasthan.
“Absolutely foolish and insensitive.”
Another person added:
“Went to Rajasthan on a WFH weekend only to get this notification the moment we entered the state.”
“Having to ban internet across the board because you can’t stop cheating in an entrance test is a clear sign of administrative failure.”
Someone else agreed that it was not fair and said:
“The responsibility of preventing cheating in the exam should lie with the body conducting the exam.”
However, one user said: “It’s a common practice in Rajasthan for most state/national exams.
“People know and are used to it. We get a message a day before the internet shutdown warning.”