Rights

Doctors Write Open Letter to PM Modi on 4G Access for Jammu and Kashmir

The lack of high-speed internet has resulted in health professionals getting unduly delayed in accessing important guidelines and updates on COVID-19.

New Delhi: On the same day when news that the government had restored high-speed 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh turned out to be false, healthcare providers and legal experts in the region wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting access to internet that could potentially help them treat COVID-19 patients better.

A 65-year-old man hailing from Hyderpora area of Srinagar died on Thursday, the first fatality in Jammu and Kashmir due to coronavirus.

The lack of high-speed internet has resulted in health professionals getting unduly delayed in accessing important guidelines and updates on COVID-19.

With news and breakthroughs in the treatment of COVID-19 changing rapidly, it is not just medical guidelines and updates that the doctors lose out on accessing but also “the latest guidelines and breakthroughs issued by the Government of India, the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding testing and treatment for people suspected of being exposed to the virus or who are infected with the virus,” they write.

On March 20, The Wire had reported on the acute problems being faced by medical practitioners thanks to slow internet availability in the region even at a time of acute health crisis.

Also read: ‘An Hour to Download ICU Guidelines’: Amid COVID-19, Kashmir Doctors Struggle With Slow Internet

There are more drawbacks to the slow 2G internet that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has had to operate under. Notably, this internet access in itself comes at the end of an unprecedented internet blackout for more than seven months since August 5.

“There are also reports that people are unable to share medical reports nor make video calls to health professionals to seek advice for their health issues. In the current COVID – 19 context, emotional and mental health support are very critical especially in a situation of physical distancing; communications are fundamental to stay in touch with families, friends as well as other support services that are necessary for people’s health and well-being. Moreover, Health professionals who require regular supplies of protective equipment and gear are unable to access the same in time,” the letter mentions.

The letter has been signed by Sarojini Nadimpally, Amar Jesani, Yogesh Jain, T. Sundararaman, Veena Johari and Deepa Venkatachalam. The authors are public health professionals, medical practitioners and legal experts with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.

In 2016, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly, declared access to internet to be a basic human right, adds the letter.

“Internet with a good speed is also essential today; a lot of information is shared through the internet, and substantial work, application to health schemes, most payments, taxes, etc., which have been digitised by the government and cannot be carried out without internet with a good speed,” said the writers of the letter.