Reliance Jio has launched its 4G services in the remotest regions of Ladakh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal said in a tweet on Tuesday. The company inaugurated four new mobile towers in Pibiting, Padium, Akshow and Abran in the remote region of Zanskar in Kargil district. The towers were built using funds from the central government’s Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), Namgyal said, who launched them on Tuesday. The development comes even as neighbouring Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) faces internet restrictions in one from or another since August 2019, when the erstwhile state was bifurcated  into two Union Territories, J&K and Ladakh.

Namgyal, in a series of tweets, expressed his “gratitude” to Mukesh Ambani, the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd, for “connecting the remotest parts of Ladakh”. He also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Minister for IT and Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad. He added that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sanctioned 54 towers for the union territory.

With this launch, Jio has become the only operator that offers voice and 4G data services in 10 towns and areas in Kargil district, reported PTI. Jio will also be first private telecom operator in Pitibiting and Padium, two of the four aforementioned towns.

4G ban in Jammu and Kashmir

Internet access in J&K has been blocked or throttled since August 2019, when the government abrogated Article 370 — which previously granted special status to the state. It was only in January this year that fixed line services and 2G mobile data services were restored. Multiple extensions of the restrictions have been issued so far. The current restrictions, which are in place till November 12, entail 4G to be restricted all over the region , except Ganderbal and Udhampur districts. Ladakh, on the other hand, returned to normalcy much sooner, with internet services resuming in December last year.

The partial and complete internet shutdowns in the region have led to untold misery among the general populace. The state’s health infrastructure was crippled due to slow internet, causing delays in the proliferation of accurate information. Doctors had told a MediaNama journalist that advisory documents from the World Health Organisation (WHO) took hours to download. Students, too, were unable to join online classes, or submit examination forms. Many Kashmiri businesses, meanwhile, are on the verge of shutdown due to the closure of e-commerce avenues. The Home ministry, however, has denied the existence of these problems. Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy told Lok Sabha in September that throttling of internet speeds had not impeded COVID-19 control measures, administration of justice and education.

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