Srinagar: With mobile users hit hard by the blanket ban on prepaid connections in Jammu and Kashmir, state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday joined the chorus protesting Centre’s decision.
The Union Home Ministry had banned prepaid mobile phone connections in the state beginning November 01, over "serious security concerns", following reports that militants were getting prepaid SIM cards on fake identities.
However, the J&K CM has come out against the blanket ban, saying the move punishes genuine users too. According to Omar, the ban on prepaid services should be lifted and security checks should be strengthened to curb their misuse.
The Home Ministry, while enforcing the ban, had said that the move "comes in the wake of reports that proper verification is not being done while providing such prepaid mobile connections by the service providers and vendors. In some cases, a single person had been issued with multiple number of connections".
The J&K police early this year had found that an IED was triggered in North Kashmir using a mobile phone that had a SIM card issued in the name a senior Army officer in North Kashmir`s Baramulla district.
"Fake documents and identity cards are being used by the vendors, particularly in the case of prepaid connections. This situation has given rise to serious security concerns. Hence, the decision," the ministry had said.
The use of mobile phones to explode IEDs is one of the easiest and widespread means of attacking security forces as the militant after planting the IED can explode it from miles away.
Omar’s father Farooq Abdullah, who holds the charge of the Union Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, too had Home Minister P Chidambaram to reconsider the continuation of the ban on prepaid mobile services in J&K. According to Farooq, the ban on prepaid services had created anger all across the state.
Anger on the streets
The `walk and talk` generation in the state is furious that it has been clubbed with terrorists who misused pre-paid connections.
"Are we militants?" Shahid Khan, a student, asked in anger and frustration. "Are millions of prepaid connection subscribers terrorists?" he asked.
The decision to snap this service has resulted in total chaos among subscribers.
"It is strange that I should be punished because someone somewhere could be misusing the facility. This is unfortunate and condemnable," said Muzaffar Ahmad, 23, a college student in Srinagar.
There are around 3.8 million pre-paid connections in the state. Most of them are from Airtel (one million), and new companies have come into the state, like Tata Indicom, Idea, Aircel, Reliance. They have made huge investments, and they too are angry.
"This is a bad move," an official of a leading mobile service provider said.
Most people, especially youth who have to deal with limited pocket money and prefer pre-paid connections, are very angry. "Until now we knew our limitations, how much to talk, if we go in for postpaid connections, that limit would be hard to know," said Sunita Sharma, a young working woman.
What surprises them is that the move comes right after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the state promising more opportunities.
Khurshid Ahmed, 28, a student of Kashmir University, said: "On the one hand the government says we must become information savvy and use the latest technology to keep pace with competitors from other universities and now the same government is pushing us back by at least a decade."