SMS and Voice Calls to be Back Across Jammu and Kashmir for All Prepaid Mobile Users

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday ordered the restoration of prepaid mobile services in the Valley after over five months of suspension. It also directed restoration of 2G mobile data service on postpaid connections to access "whitelisted" sites across the Jammu division, an official spokesperson said.

2G mobile data services on postpaid mobiles for accessing the whitelisted sites were resumed in only two districts -- Kupwara and Bandipora -- in Kashmir.

The administration has also ordered fixed-line internet connectivity with precautions to the companies engaged in software services in the Valley.

"Telecom service providers are being issued instructions to operationalise the directions immediately after providing all the safeguards detailed in the order issued today by the competent authority," said Principal Secretary to Jammu and Kashmir government Rohit Kansal.

The development comes a week after the Supreme Court, in a significant ruling on January 10, asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within a week all orders imposing curbs in the Union Territory.

Internet services, landline and mobile phones were snapped across Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of Centre's announcement to scrap special status of the erstwhile state and its bifurcation into Union Territories on August 5.

While most of the services except mobile internet were restored in Jammu within a week, Kashmir witnessed restoration of landlines and postpaid mobile services and internet facilities to essential services like hospitals in phases.

"After a careful review, the competent authority has ordered today that voice and SMS facility shall be restored on all local prepaid SIM cards across the Union Territory of J&K. Further in order to consider, provision of mobile internet connectivity on such SIM cards, the telecom service providers shall initiate the process of verification of credentials for these subscribers as per available norms for postpaid subscribers," Kansal, who is the official spokesperson of the government, said.

Kansal said the internet service providers -- BSNL and private service providers -- would provide fixed-line internet connectivity with precautions already directed to all companies engaged in the software services sector.

"2G mobile data services on postpaid mobiles for accessing the whitelisted sites shall be allowed in all 10 districts of Jammu division and to begin with in the two revenue districts of Kupwara and Bandipora in Kashmir division," he said.

Kansal said mobile internet connectivity would, however, remain suspended in Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts in the Valley.

On January 10, the Supreme Court criticised the UT administration for arbitrarily shutting down internet, the facility described as a fundamental right by the apex court.

Referring to the January 14 order when the government announced partial restoration of 2G services in five of the 10 districts of Jammu and broadband facilities for essential services including banks, government offices, trade, tourism and travel establishments, Kansal said the overall effort is to keep the restrictions to bare minimum based on the ground situation.

As per the order issued by Principal Secretary of the Home Department, Shaleen Kabra, "the directions would be effective from Saturday and remain in force till January 24, unless modified earlier".

"Assessment of the overall security scenario in the UT of J and K pursuant to directions on January 14 relating to the regulation of telecom services does not indicate any immediate adverse impact in the areas where internet access was provided," the order read.

(With inputs from agencies)