Rajasthan cuts off internet to prevent cheating in the exam; millions affected

On September 26, most of the people in the state of Rajasthan were denied internet access. More than 25 million people across the state of Rajasthan faced government-mandated internet shutdowns and restrictions which was imposed to prevent cheating in a mass exam.

The exam, Teacher Eligibility Test (REET) conducted in the state to give employment as a primary or secondary school teacher at government-run schools. Hundreds of thousands of candidates attended the exam across more than 4,000 locations. The government shut down the internet between 6 am and 6 pm to prevent cheating during the time of exams. This is not the first time that the government is taking a rigorous step for having a smooth exam procedure. 

The government arranged free bus services for people from their homes to the test center. Keeping in mind that there would be chances of potential cheating on the written exam, the authorities ordered districts to issue internet restrictions to prevent any leaks of information. Cheating on written exams has been uncontrollable in the past and the government took the decision due to this reason.

Almost around 10 districts shut down their mobile internet even though several kept broadband internet going to minimize disruption to businesses and daily life. According to Dinesh Kumar Yadav, the Jaipur divisional commissioner, the Jaipur district which has a population of more than 6.6 million residents, faced the internet shut down from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Apart from Jaipur, several other major districts, including Alwar, Nagaur, Sikar, and Ajmer, also imposed temporary internet shutdowns. According to the population estimates from the 2011 census, it is adding up to a total of more than 25.2 million people affected by the internet shutdown. Online classes, medical consultations, and work from home duty for many got affected by the shutdown. The main issue was for the digital transactions in the state which witnessed 12 hours of internet block.

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Software Freedom Law Centre in its letter to Rajasthan Chief Minister stated that temporarily banning the internet to prevent cheating is a violation of the law since it does not count as a “public emergency” or “public safety” measure.