India became eerily quiet as millions of mobile phone screens remained unlit amid the government’s attempt to repress mass hysteria.
The five-a-day limit on text and multimedia messages disrupted communications in a country where more than a billion text messages were sent every day prior to the government order. Indians accused the government of taking away “something that has become a basic, fundamental need”. Text messages have become an essential means of communication, especially for students who are on cheaper, prepaid accounts.
According to the Financial Times, the nationwide ban is taking its toll on the mobile industry. The Cellular Operators Association of India estimates that mobile service providers will suffer a loss of about $133m for the 15-day period. Industry sources and analysts questioned the nationwide ban that could seriously hurt revenues. COAI director-general Rajan Matthew told the FT: “The government’s heart is in the right place in trying to address the issue … But when we are fighting over nickel and dime, this loss is not a small amount”.
The government also blocked almost 250 websites and urged social websites, such as Facebook and Google, to remove “inflammatory content”. Civil rights activists said that the ban “may have been necessary to ease ethnic and religious tensions”.
“The national interest will come over [mobile] revenues,” says lawyer Pavan Duggan.