Recruitment review: Assam briefly suspends mobile internet in 24 districts

Mobile internet connectivity was temporarily suspended for two hours in 24 of Assam’s 35 districts on Sunday in the interest of holding “free, fair and transparent” recruitment exams for government jobs, according to a government decree. It will be suspended for another two hours later today.

An order issued by the State Headquarters and Political Department invoked Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 with the rule of temporary suspension of telecommunication service (public emergency or public safety) , 2017, to suspend mobile Internet services from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on August 21 and 28. However, broadband services will remain functional throughout the period, he said.

Examinations are underway for recruitment to 30,000 Grade III and Grade IV positions in the Assam government for which more than 14 lakh candidates are competing on August 21, August 28 and September 11.

Earlier this week, during a virtual conference with Deputy Commissioners, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma described the recruitment exams as the “most important” of its kind for Grade III posts. and IV. “It’s not just a review. If we can induct 30,000 completely on merit, then the face of government will change,” he said, adding that he “apologized to the public ” for the inconvenience “.

“These two hours…sometimes the mobile internet kicks in [for the same duration] when towers malfunction too,” Sarma said.

Districts where mobile internet connectivity was suspended on Sunday included capital Guwahati and other areas of Kamrup (metro) district, as well as Bajali, Biswanath, Cachar, Charaideo, Chirang, Darrang, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Dima Hasao, Golaghat , Jorhat, Kamrup, Karbi Anglong, Kokrajhar, Lakhimpur, Majuli, Nalbari, Sivasgar, Sonitpur, Tamulpur, Tinsukia, Udalguri and West Karbi Anglong districts. On August 28, the list will also include Baksa district. Sarma said that for the 9/11 exam, the government would consider whether the move was necessary, given that only a small number of candidates would sit for the exam on that date.

“We don’t want to take any risks…even if someone leaks the quiz on WhatsApp during the exam, it will be chaos,” Sarma said.

According to the order, signed by Niraj Verma, Principal Secretary (Interior and Political Department), the government was taking this action because on other occasions, “unscrupulous elements have resorted to unfair means using different mobile applications such as as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube. , etc., which are based on internet connectivity.

“The government of Assam does not want any disruption to the review process which could have the potential to create doubt about the fairness of the recruitment process,” the order said. He added that the government had ‘reviewed the matter’ and had come to the conclusion that ‘in the interests of a free, fair and transparent recruitment review, it is prudent and timely to close any possible gaps , including temporarily disabling mobile internet connectivity during exam hours on the days set for the holding of that written exam,” he said.

Additionally, CrPC Section 144 (Prohibition Orders) was enacted in and around the exam sites on August 21 and 28 and September 11.

Following the suspension, Congressman Pradyut Bordoloi wrote to the Chief Minister on Sunday expressing his “concern” and asking the government to reconsider the decision in the public interest. “The suspension of internet for the conduct of examinations has already been found to be disproportionate and unjustified on grounds of public emergency or public safety as ordered by the Honorable High Court of West Bengal in Calcutta to Ashlesh Birader against the state of West Bengal in March 2022,” Bordoloi wrote, adding that the measure was “disproportionate” and impacts the “right to speech, right to livelihood, access to information, education and health”.

A government source said the decision was made taking into account “the history of irregularities in recruiting exams” in the state. “The original plan was to limit services only around exam centers, but that didn’t work,” he said.

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