WORLD

Communication blockade affects patient care in Kashmir

An elderly Kashmiri man is stopped before being allowed to pass near a temporary checkpoint set up by Indian paramilitary soldiers during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (AP Photo)

Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing an increasing number of fatal heart attack as patients are denied medical attention, for want of phone lines, according to a doctor who spoke to an India-based magazine.

"In August and September, we have seen a rise in heart attack cases. We are getting eight to 10 patients every day, which is unprecedented," a doctor, posted at the main hospital in Srinagar, summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, told Delhi-based Outlook magazine.

The journal quoted doctors who said in the absence of communication facilities, they have no idea how many people might have died in their homes, due to lack of emergency medical care.

India blocked communication by snapping telephone and internet lines and imposed severe restrictions ahead of its Aug. 5 move to scrap special provisions granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Indian constitution.

The communication blackout in the region entered day 39 Thursday.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indian (TRAI), there are 120,000 fixed landline phones and 11.5 million mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir.

"There are 5.69 million wireless internet subscriptions and 4.55 million broadband subscriptions," the TRAI data said.

Government spokesman Rohit Kansal said that as many as 80,000 fixed phones have been restored.

The landline phone facility, however, is mostly used by government officials at their offices and residences.

"Voice calls on mobile devices were working only in Kupwara and Handwara police districts of north Kashmir [along the Line of Control]," a Press Trust of India (PTI) report said.

Despite government claims, many users complain they are still unable to contact families inside Kashmir even through "restored" landline phones.

There has been a decision yet to resume internet services.

The UN Human Rights Council has also expressed concern about the communication blackout in the region.

"I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet, communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists," High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told the 42nd regular session of the Council in Geneva last Monday.

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