Digital India is an Indian government initiative aimed at transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. It focuses on bridging the digital divide, promoting e-governance, and fostering digital literacy. However, alongside the progress made, India has faced challenges in the form of internet shutdowns, which raise concerns about freedom of expression and access to information.

These shutdowns have become a contentious issue in India, with the government ordering the suspension of internet services in certain regions or during specific events. Supporters argue they are necessary for security and public safety, while critics see them as violating citizens’ rights, hindering communication, and impeding economic activities. This debate highlights the delicate balance between security and democratic values in the context of Digital India.

The general effects of Internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns have profound implications for individuals, particularly in their ability to access essential services and carry out daily activities. The suspension of internet services hampers people’s access to government food programs, as online platforms are increasingly used for the distribution and management of such programs. This disruption can leave vulnerable populations without the means to obtain their entitled benefits, exacerbating issues of food insecurity and poverty.

Moreover, internet shutdowns hinder people’s ability to engage in basic economic transactions. In an increasingly digitalized world, many individuals rely on online platforms for shopping and banking. When the internet is shut down, it becomes difficult or even impossible for people to access online marketplaces, make purchases, or carry out financial transactions. This impediment can lead to financial hardships, limiting people’s economic participation and exacerbating inequalities.

Overall, internet shutdowns not only restrict the flow of information and hinder freedom of expression, but they also have tangible consequences on individuals’ daily lives. The inability to access government food programs, shop online, or conduct banking activities highlights the far-reaching impact of these shutdowns on people’s ability to fulfill their basic needs and participate in the digital economy.

How Internet shutdowns affect the rural people’s access to nourishment

Internet shutdowns have a disproportionate impact on rural marginalized communities, as they heavily rely on government services for their basic needs. One such crucial service is the access to subsidized food grains through the Public Distribution System (PDS). The PDS operates by authenticating beneficiaries’ biometric identification through online systems. However, when an internet shutdown occurs, rural communities are unable to authenticate their biometric IDs, resulting in denied access to subsidized food grains.

For these marginalized communities, the inability to authenticate their biometric IDs due to the absence of internet connectivity exacerbates their already challenging living conditions. Many individuals and families in rural areas depend on the subsidized food grains provided through the PDS as a lifeline to combat food insecurity and poverty. The disruption of internet services disrupts this vital lifeline, leaving vulnerable populations without access to the basic sustenance they rely on.

As a result, internet shutdowns deepen the inequalities faced by rural marginalized communities, further marginalizing them from essential government services. The lack of access to subsidized food grains not only threatens their food security but also perpetuates cycles of poverty and deprivation. It highlights the urgent need for addressing the implications of internet shutdowns and finding alternative solutions to ensure uninterrupted access to critical government services for rural populations.

NREGA and Internet shutdowns- how people’s labor is not being compensated

Internet shutdowns have a significant impact on the rural income security program, known as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). NREGA guarantees a minimum number of days of employment to rural workers and aims to alleviate poverty by providing income security. However, the implementation of NREGA heavily relies on digital platforms for workers to prove their work and receive payment.

During an internet shutdown, rural workers face challenges in documenting their work by uploading pictures as proof of their labor. The lack of internet connectivity prevents them from accessing the online portals or mobile applications required for uploading these pictures, resulting in delayed or incomplete documentation. As a consequence, workers may not receive payment for the actual work they have done, leading to financial hardships for already marginalized individuals and families.

The adverse effects of internet shutdowns on NREGA highlight the crucial role that digital infrastructure plays in ensuring fair and accurate compensation for rural workers. Without reliable internet access, workers are at a disadvantage, facing barriers in documenting their labor and receiving the appropriate compensation. It underscores the urgency of finding alternative mechanisms or offline solutions to mitigate the impact of internet shutdowns on the income security of rural workers and protect their rights to fair remuneration.

But why these shutdowns? The government’s word vs. the real reasons

Internet shutdowns are often justified by the government as necessary for maintaining law and order, curbing public unrest, and preventing the spread of misinformation. These reasons are presented as the official rationale behind the shutdowns. However, it is widely believed that the real motivations behind such measures are to stifle peaceful protests and curb dissenting voices. By cutting off internet access, the government can impede the organization and mobilization of protesters, limiting their ability to voice their concerns and challenge the status quo. Additionally, another often undisclosed reason for internet shutdowns is to prevent cheating on school exams. In some cases, shutting down the internet during exam periods is seen as a means to curb unfair practices and maintain the integrity of the education system. By restricting access to online resources and communication channels, the government aims to deter cheating attempts and ensure a level playing field for all students. However, the prolonged and widespread nature of internet shutdowns suggests that their use extends beyond exam-related concerns, raising doubts about the true intentions behind such measures.


In conclusion, internet shutdowns in India under the guise of maintaining law and order or preventing misinformation have been a subject of contention. While the government claims that these shutdowns are necessary for security and public safety, critics argue that the true motives behind such measures are to stifle peaceful protests and control the flow of information. Additionally, the undisclosed aim of preventing cheating on school exams further adds to the concerns surrounding internet shutdowns. These actions not only infringe upon citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information but also disrupt essential services, such as government food programs and access to subsidized grains.

The debate surrounding internet shutdowns in the context of Digital India underscores the need to strike a delicate balance between security concerns and preserving democratic values. Efforts should be made to find alternative measures that address security concerns without resorting to widespread internet shutdowns. Ensuring transparency, promoting dialogue, and safeguarding citizens’ rights are crucial steps toward building a digitally inclusive society that harnesses the benefits of technology while respecting the fundamental principles of democracy.