The Rajasthan government shut down internet services across several major cities. They did this not because there was a law-and-order situation; not because of rumours of child lifters; and not because of communal tensions, but because there was a scheduled examination. The Rajasthan Police Constable Recruitment exam took place on 14th and 15 July at the centres in Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur, with 15 lakh candidates applying for 13,000 posts.
This decision was taken because the same exam had to be cancelled in March after it emerged that a gang was using hi-tech methods to cheat, including creating thumb-print duplicates of the candidates. Believing that the same cheating situation would occur, Rajasthan decided that the exam would be completely offline, that nobody in the centres would be allowed to bring their phones in and, indeed, that no one in the area could use mobile internet at all.
This imposition of internet shutdown is apparently not new to Rajasthan. According to the shutdown tracker, this state comes 2nd on the list of those willing to turn the internet off to deal with a situation, after Jammu and Kashmir. It has imposed shutdowns nine times this year, which is more than once in a month. As various reports have proven, such actions come with a legit economic cost and effects the people’s freedom. The cheating in March was enabled by a heavy reliance on biometrics through which the gang was able to fool. In response, the government, by now comfortable with this sort of method, chose to take away its citizens’ freedoms and rights despite knowing exactly when and where examinations were going to be held.
The government should not be allowed to simply turn off the internet, even though it is technically following the Centre’s rules in the matter. Abdicating its own law and order responsibilities is not a cause to take away the fundamental rights of its citizens. Since it is about the internet, people still do not see it the way they do for other utilities.