New Delhi: Unlike other students his age, Class X student Sahil had plenty of time to kill this weekend. He spent the last two days with a friend at a mobile phone repair shop looking at clips of the mobile video game PUBG. Sahil, who lives in Singhu village, was unable to attend online classes after internet in the border area was temporarily suspended, and is one of the many residents of the village undone by the net blockade.
“There is no internet in our village, so I am unable to sit for my classes and connect with teachers. Hopefully, the net connection will return by midnight and I can re start my studies,” the teenager said.
A number of villagers also complained of financial troubles, as UPI and digital transactions went down with the internet connection. In the electronic age, several complained about not being able to access net banking too.
Gourav, who runs a photocopy shop near the Singhu border protest site, said that internet issues plague the students in the area frequently. “College students often have to go all the way to Narela to sit for their exams. Most do not have Wi-Fi at home and often have to go a long distance just to get a strong signal,” he added.
The central government has suspended internet connectivity at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border areas on the request of Delhi Police after the violence that followed the tractor rally on January 26 and later an attack on the protesting farmers by people claiming to be locals.
Gulshan Kumar is one of the few in the village who owns a Wi-Fi router in his shop and helps people access application forms for Civil Defence, Pan Card and Aadhaar cards. “My customers have been complaining about not being able to do net banking. Digital payments through UPI or online wallets like PayTM have also stopped. Students are hassled about their online classes,” said Gulshan. “I hope that the internet is restored soon. We cannot be treated like this; it’s our right to have internet connections.”
Many are hoping that the disruption is just temporary and does not extend any longer. The owner of a salon, Tahir Khan, is assured that the troubles will be over soon. “The government may restore the internet by Monday and then things will be back to normal. I hope they don’t shut down the internet again,” Khan said.
At the protest site nearby, the farmers are, however, unfazed by the absence of the facility deemed crucial for everyday life. While a Wi-Fi connection at one location at the protest site was being promoted on social media, many farmers stated that they could manage without the internet. Gurpreet Singh of Jalandhar was found reading a book in Gurmukhi inside his tent on Sunday.
“For the last two days, many of us relied on reading books and journals to keep ourselves busy. These books have inspiring messages and encourage us to struggle while being peaceful,” said Singh.