Assam Govt Suspends Internet Services To Prevent Cheating On Exams | Panda Anku

Assam government imposes temporary mobile internet shutdown in 24 districts as anti-cheating measure for exams. Two entrance exams – one yesterday and one next Sunday, August 28 – are part of the state’s largest recruitment drive for various government positions. And the internet blocking is mandatory “in the interest of conducting free, fair and transparent” tests, according to the government decree.

While social media and other digital corridors have historically allowed for wrongdoing, the internet lockdown citing exams as the reason dangerously introduces internet blocking into mainstream government usage. It not only raises questions about “digital disciplining” as an anti-cheating measure, but also renews concerns about the rise of arbitrary internet disconnections in India, which are claimed without due process. When shutdowns become more frequent and imposed with questionable intent, they have a detrimental impact on freedom of expression and access to information.

Nearly 14,000 candidates will appear for these exams, which are scheduled for August 21, September 28 and September 11. The decision relates to the Indian Telegraph Act, Section 5(2) of which allows for the temporary suspension of mobile internet for reasons of public safety or during a public emergency. This effectively means that people in Assam cannot access mobile data services for four hours over two days.

Government officials have justified the need for internet blocking to prevent fraud. In the past, “unscrupulous elements resorted to unfair means using various mobile applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, etc., which rely on an internet connection,” the order reads. Questionnaires leaked on WhatsApp have the potential to cause “chaos”.

This incident is not an isolated one. State governments like West Bengal have previously dealt with cheating and unfair means in recruitment exams by installing internet jammers or surveillance cameras on premises. Also in this year the Government of West Bengal is considering suspending internet services to prevent cheating during his Madhyamik (Class 10) exams. Earlier this year, the Rajasthan government also deployed mobile internet and SMS services during the state’s Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (the exam papers were leaked and sold online for more than Rs. 1 crore).

Exceed some limitations the digital space; In Karnataka, students were asked to wear boxes over their heads, one of which was left openly visible during a school exam. The National Eligibility Entrance Test in Kerala has a sexist history of requiring candidates to remove their underwear.

Fraud is unfair and warrants action. But the Assam government, which imposes internet shutdowns on the abstract ground of “public safety,” misses the point where internet restrictions are forms of surveillance and violate people’s privacy and autonomy. In addition, it enables a culture of normalization intrusive disciplining.


Associated with The Swaddle:

Indian economy lost Rs. 20,000 crores due to government internet bans in 2020


“…a confluence of extreme competition, resource constraints in education, and the convergence of exam performance and self-identity have all resulted in a situation where examiners will stop at nothing to prevent ‘cheating’,” as Rohitha Naraharisetty wrote in The Swaddle. “In other words, there are so few opportunities for a good education and so many compete for it that the public examination system pits young people against each other like gladiators to fight for their right to a quality education.” The response to internet shutdowns then becomes supposed submissive where people are expected to see it as a necessity to curb malaise from cheating and cheating. But never is there In addition introspective questioning of what makes the competition so vulnerable to “unscrupulous elements” in the first place.

Even before it happened in Assam, internet shutdowns for conducting audits were also being called “disproportionate and unjustified” by Indian courts. Kolkata’s Supreme Court in March said the order to block mobile internet to prevent fraud “lacked adequate justification”. The order also “did not give any reasons to prove that alternative measures were not available or inappropriate and therefore did not meet the proportionality test”.

The politician Pradyut Bordoloi also referred to the incident at hand wrote to the Assam government, noting that “the disproportionate nature of this measure impacts on the right to speech, the right to livelihood, access to information, education and health.”

India has notoriously earned a reputation as the “Internet Shutdown Capital of the World”. In 2020, our shutdown orders accounted for over 70% of the global orders, many of which were imposed to stem community tensions and protests (closures also resulted in an economic loss of Rs. 20,000 crores). Shutting down the internet is a “commonly used tool that the government relies on to silence dissent and restrict the rights to press and freedom of expression under the guise of maintaining law and order,” according to a report by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights.

India’s use of internet blocking is also of concern due to the lack of centralized records detailing the effectiveness and scope of such restrictions. There are no data, polls, or expert firms to analyze how much – or how little – these lockdowns actually serve the cause of “public emergency” or “safety.” Additionally, many of these suspensions violate Supreme Court guidance issued in 2020. Based on an answer on Kashmir times Editor Anuradha Bhasin’s petition mandated the court to have the union and state governments post internet shutdown orders on official government websites before they imposed it and kept the orders on their websites. These guidelines have been violated on multiple occasions. The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) also noted that internet shutdown orders in response to Rajasthan’s REET “also point to ‘anti-social elements’ spreading misinformation online”.

“The damage caused by these Internet shutdowns outweighs any speculative benefit,” IFF noted. “The suspension of Internet services based on the vague, feeble, and unfounded concern that the protest or an audit ‘may adversely affect public safety and law and order’ is a violation of the constitutional rights of residents of affected counties. A vague fear of a law and order problem does not meet the legal threshold of a public emergency or threat to public safety.”

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