Broadband internet service in government-run hospitals and SMS facilities were restored on all mobile phones from Tuesday midnight in Kashmir, after over four-and-a-half months of suspension.
Internet services, landline and mobile phones were snapped across Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, a day before the Centre's announcement to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divide it into two union territories. Though most services, except mobile internet, were restored in Jammu within a week, Kashmir saw landlines and post-paid services being restored in phases.
"It has been decided to restore internet connectivity to all government hospitals with effect from midnight of December 31 besides fully restoring SMS on mobile phones," Jammu and Kashmir administration spokesman Rohit Kansal told reporters here.
However, Internet and pre-paid mobile services in Kashmir are yet to be restored.
On December 10, he had said machine-based SMSes were enabled for mobile phones in Kashmir in order to facilitate students, scholarship aspirants, traders and others, and that restoration of full message services was part of the process.
"Continuous efforts of the government have been to facilitate and move forward as much as possible and as quickly as possible, and ever since August 5, we have been progressing in this direction both in Jammu and in Kashmir. We have been moving progressively forward and we will try to ensure as much and as quickly as possible," Kansal said in response to a question about the restoration of Internet services.
He said that "our direction has been progressive, positive, and the movement forward".
"We have been trying to take all possible steps slowly, surely but firmly in the form of restoration. These steps will continue," said Kansal, who is also principal secretary for planning, development and monitoring in the Union Territory administration of Jammu and Kashmir.
On August 5, the Centre had abrogated Article 370 provisions that gave special status to J-K and bifurcated the erstwhile state into UTs of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Kansal said the administration in Kashmir is facilitating students, contractors, tour operators, government officials through various internet touchpoints.
"Nearly 900 such touchpoints and special counters are functional throughout Kashmir in districts, prominent tourist places and hotels, and about 6 lakh people have taken advantage of these touchpoints," the spokesman said.
In response to a question on the release of detained politicians, including three former chief ministers, Kansal said that "any release or detention, preventive or otherwise, is a decision that is being taken by local law enforcing agencies based on its assessment of the local law and order situation".
"The same is being continuously reviewed. Some people were released yesterday, it is again a local assessment and review of the situation," he said.
Five political leaders, who had been under preventive detention since August 5, were released from the MLA hostel in Srinagar on Monday. Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are still under detention.
Asked about the reasons for putting Congress leaders under house arrest in Jammu, Kansal said he does not have any information, but whenever local law enforcing agencies feel such a need based on their assessment of the situation, they carry out action accordingly.
He said despite repeated attempts by anti-national and anti-social elements, over 19 lakh metric tons of apple was exported.
In September, the government had introduced a market intervention scheme for procurement of apples, Kansal said.
"This was when there was considerable concern and apprehension about the harvest procurement and transportation of apples, and when there was a concerted effort by anti-social and anti-national elements to attack everybody associated with the apple trade, to burn trucks as well as the harvested crop," he said.
Over 19 lakh metric tons of bumper harvest already stands exported and market intervention scheme stands extended to March 2020, the spokesman said.
"Efforts of anti-national elements to harm the economy and livelihood of people have been thwarted," he said.
On demands from various quarters on reservation for educated local youths in government jobs, Kansal said, "there have been various suggestions that have been received by the government and these are under examination".
He denied any discrimination in the distribution of compensation to farmers affected by unprecedented snowfall and rains in the regions of Jammu and Kashmir, and said, "This government is absolutely fair, impartial and people-friendly."
The people will be given their rights in accordance with the rules, Kansal said.