Internet-dependent commercial activities hit in Assam

Last Updated 17 December 2019, 13:53 IST

Suspension of the internet in Assam has affected commercial activities dependent on online transactions and mobile applications, particularly banking, cab services, food delivery and e-commerce sectors.

Internet services have been suspended in Assam since December 11 following protests against the citizenship law.

Broadband services were restored on Tuesday but mobile internet remained suspended causing hardship to people dependent on mobile apps and other online services.

People are facing difficulties in withdrawing or transferring money online and as there is no internet, debit and credit cards also cannot be used for making online transactions, several bank customers told PTI.

"We conducted most of our banking transactions online or through debit and credit cards but over the past six days, we have become dependent on cash," 26-year old businessman Mohit Jain said.

Bank officials said they have dedicated internet lines which are working but most customers dependent on mobile network are not being able to conduct transactions.

With a halt on online transactions, people have become more dependent on cash leading to its shortage in the ATMs, they said.

The banks are regularly replenishing cash in the ATMs and mobile ATMs have also been put into service in some areas but the measures are still not enough in easing the situation, shopkeeper Hemanta Kalita of Chandmari area of the city said.

Kalita said he had waited for more than an hour outside an ATM to withdraw cash so that he could buy stock for his shop from the Fancy Bazaar wholesale market but cash ran out in the kiosk forcing him to shun his plan.

The worst affected, however, are mobile app-dependent cab and bike services like Ola, Uber and Rapido.

Ola and Uber cab drivers had staged a protest on Tuesday by lining their vehicles on the streets and seeking alms.

The agitating drivers said for the last six days, they have not been able to earn anything due to the suspension of mobile internet services.

Demanding that mobile internet services be restored, president of Guwahati Cab Drivers Association, Ibrahim Ali said, "Several youths from poor financial backgrounds run their families and pay bank instalments with their earnings as cab drivers."

Bijoy Deka, a cab driver, said, "I pay a monthly instalment of Rs 10,000 for my vehicle but I fear that I will default this month as I have not earned for nearly a week."

App-based bike rider Rajib Ali said he is facing difficulties in running his family which is dependent on his earnings.

Food delivery service applications such as Swiggy and Zomato have also been affected.

Several restaurant owners said they have not received any online home delivery orders due to the suspension of internet services.

E-commerce sector, too, has been hit with people not being able to order items or receive products they have already ordered.

"I had ordered winter clothes through Amazon online application but the products have not yet been delivered and I am not able to track them," homemaker Mayuri Gohain said.

Students are also facing difficulties in submitting applications online.

"I was scheduled to submit my applications for higher studies to foreign universities this week but I am not been able to do that. If internet services remain suspended, I might have to go outside the state to submit them," undergraduate student Pallavi Sarma said.

Several people, who were planning to travel during the upcoming festive season of Assam, are also unable to book flight or train tickets online.

(Published 17 December 2019, 13:53 IST)

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