Indian state cuts off internet for millions to stop cheating in exams

1.6 million people sat teaching eligibility test, chasing 40,000 jobs

The Indian state of Rajasthan yesterday cut off internet access to millions of citizens, in order to prevent cheating in an exam.

The exam in question is the Rajasthan Eligibility Exam for Teachers (REET) – a test that, as its name implies, is a requirement to be employed as a teacher.

Rajasthan's informational website predicts that over 1.5 million people will sit the test in their quest to fill one of 40,000 teaching job vacancies in the state. The test hasn't been run for two years.

Indian news reports claim than over 1.6 million people took the test on Sunday, but social media is awash with reports of chaos across the state after internet outages were imposed from 6am to 6pm to prevent cheating. The Register estimates at least 8,500,000 people were cut off from the internet for the day.

The Register has sourced and translated one of the notices imposing the internet shutdown. It requires blocking internet services, messaging apps, and social media. Voice calls were permitted, as were wired internet connections (but as we reported last week, just 24 million of India's 808 million broadband subscriptions are wired).

The imposed outage did not go down well.

The Indian Software Freedom Law Centre objected on grounds that "Internet shutdowns are bound to cause economic loss, an impact on education, healthcare and other welfare schemes.

"An internet shutdown during a pandemic can be especially grave considering citizens depend on the internet to get information, work and study."

Others found the situation laughable.

Another reaction The Register spotted sought to remind residents they don't always have to live online.

But Rajasthani citizens appear to have shrugged it off. Because the state has done it before, for the same reasons.

While residents of Rajasthan may have been able to shrug off the outage, other Indians in the Muslim-majority territory of Jammu and Kashmir pointed out that they have it much worse. They have endured over a year of internet shutdowns on 'security grounds' – grounds that many feel are dubious at best. And more than likely further shutdowns will occur, given the political and religious tensions in the region. ®

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