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  • Writer's pictureThe Honest Critique

Open Letter To Dr. Shashi Tharoor


Ratnadeep Chakraborty,


The Honest Critique Kolkata, West Bengal 19th April 2020 To, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) Thiruvananthapuram, 97, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi - 110 003 Dear Shashiji, I hope this letter finds you in fine fettle. I am writing this letter as a young Indian who strongly believes in the democratic ethos of the country that our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru instilled among the people including respect for parliamentary procedures and abiding faith in the constitutional system. I have been a student of your online classes, amongst the thousand other Indian students who attended your class, to learn your proposed theories and get an insight into the world of International relations. To begin with, I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude for the valuable knowledge you have shared through the video lectures at this time of this crisis. But I wish to bring to your attention that while I enjoyed the video classes, nevertheless a significant part of the population of the youth that was left out from accessing this knowledge. Kashmir is in a state of crisis. While the rest of the country reaps the fruit of liberalism and 4G internet connection, Kashmir is pushed into a communication blockade for over six months. The internet shutdown for an indefinite period is draconian in nature and is a violation of the fundamental right under Article 19. India doesn’t have a law for the right to equality based on geography but Kashmir has suffered silently while we have burst crackers of democracy. You spoke about your idea of India and how India should be utilising the potential of young people which constitute half of its population. I might even risk calling your idea ambitious wherein you said that India’s reawakening should be driven by the equity of youth. The youth of the country is definitely full of ideas, energy and passion but there are not enough opportunities available in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir to utilise or maybe even realise it. The data provided by the union minister of labour and employment shows that forty per cent Jammu and Kashmir youth in the 15-30 age-group don’t have a job which is much higher than the national average. The internet shutdown moreover is discriminatory in nature and hinders the progress of our youth in the country. It is disconnecting a certain segment of our population from possible opportunities and avenues. A report by Delhi-based think-tank, International Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), estimates a total loss of around Rs 4,000 crore on Kashmir’s economy in the last six years due to frequent internet shutdowns. As per a report released by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), businesses in the valley have suffered losses worth Rs 18,000 crore since August 5 2019. At a time when our economic policies aren’t doing great and the unemployment rate is high, can we afford to incur such losses? Kashmir has one of the worst healthcare infrastructures in the country. According to a report by Jammu Kashmir Civil Service Society (JKCSS), it has one ventilator for every 71,000 people and 1 doctor for every 3,900 people which is way below the national average. At this time of crisis, where communication plays a huge role, having a low-speed 2G internet service prevents doctors from accessing crucial advice from the global healthcare community. A Kashmiri doctor said in an interview to ‘The New Humanitarian’ that an internet connection, especially during a pandemic, is like an eye to the emergency physician. This is an utter violation of Article 21 of the constitution which includes Right to Health and Medical care. The services offered by the hospitals aren’t accessible at times and most importantly it’s not equitable when compared to the rest of India. I want to tell you the story of a boy from Srinagar. Rafiq is a student preparing for his entrance examinations. He was supposed to go to Rajendra Nagar in Delhi for his coaching classes but after the abrogation of Article 370 and imposition of an indefinite curfew, he couldn’t. He was stuck inside his home without having access to even books or study material. The internet shutdowns didn’t give him a chance to download or read any course book online. Time passed and he had to drop his plan of going to Delhi for coaching classes. His father somehow managed to get some books from the Delhi market but it’s not enough to prepare and qualify. Without a proper internet connection and access to newspapers, it’s difficult to prepare for current affairs. Unprepared, he was convinced to not apply for this year’s Civil Service Examination. This is a single star among a galaxy of anecdotes one can tell you! This is the reality of hundreds of young Kashmiris who are deprived of basic opportunities that the rest of India have considered it a birthright. There are University students who can’t fill up their applications because of slow internet connections. While students from the rest of India are being compensated with online classes for shutting down schools and universities, Kashmiri students are crippled further with 2G internet services. Hundreds of students who are studying in various corners of India and are now back home due to the pandemic can’t access their live classes. You might be wondering why I am writing this letter to you when you are in the opposition. It’s my firm belief that you will not be silent on this topic and use your influence over social media to educate more people. I have lost my hope conveying this crisis to the Government and that’s why I am writing this letter to you. This letter is my symbol of hope, if you may call it that. I want to offer two solutions to the problem apart from requesting the Government to restore 4G internet services. One, request all the Universities in India to accept offline applications from students of Jammu and Kashmir and the second one being, request all the Universities who want to conduct the final examinations over the internet to think of the Kashmiri students who won’t have access to faster internet connections. The Universities who are taking online classes can send their study materials over email to those students who couldn’t access the live classes. I would like to end this letter by saying, as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, that the children of today will make India of tomorrow- I hope that they are nurtured in the lap of individual freedom and liberty because we don’t want to see an India without these qualities in the future. Yours lovingly, Ratnadeep Chakraborty

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