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Increase in Mobile Internet Price: Testing People’s Obedience?

An op-ed of the expert Rustam Gulov on what was a reason behind the decision to increase the price of mobile Internet in Tajikistan and its sudden revocation.

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State officials exploited the absence of the President to adopt a decision on the increase of mobile Internet price. Photo: knews.kg

It is difficult to say what the fuss with the one-week effective decision was about. However, there are several factors one has to take into consideration.

One may feel that the first attempt to raise the price of SIM-cards and lightning intrusion of the president was a rehearsal. They tested people for obedience, obtained controversial results – a cross between queues and demonstrations, and resolved the problem via the president, incidentally building up his image of a guarantor of citizens’ rights and freedoms.

Just a few days before the revocation of decision to increase the mobile Internet price, live on air of radio “Tajikistan”, member of parliament, leader of the Democratic Party Saidjafar Usmonzoda expressed hope that president Emomali Rahmon will cancel the decision after his return from Moscow, because such a compromising government directive is impermissible right before two important political events in the country (parliamentary and presidential elections of 2020).

At the same time, he several times highlighted that the Communication Service, the Antimonopoly Service and the Tax Committee simply do their job without thinking about its political component. And in this case, they took advantage of the absence of the president in the country to adopt this decree.

However, Usmonzoda made yet another interesting statement: “Regardless of who made the decision to raise prices, one can see the involvement of the Communication Service.”  He also noted an important point – the people do not particularly distinguish what kind of state agency decided to increase the prices for certain services. For ordinary people, state bodies are all the same and all together a government.

So, several agencies decided to play a game aimed at undermining public confidence in the country’s leadership in a fairly short time before the elections.

Otherwise, it was in fact done by the Communication Service, specifically by its head Beg Sabur, who, on the one hand just wants to earn even more money, on the other — to divert the attention of society from the recently published journalistic investigation about him selling apartments right from the office.

Besides, several questions arise:

– do the senior state officials of such important departments in fact behave like small children who start to “destroy” their house in the absence of the parents and only the intervention of the “elders” is able to calm them down?!

– do they understand that the adoption of such decisions not only harms the image of the government, but also gives another argument in favor of all its opponents?

– how is it possible that such important decisions are made without the knowledge of the head of the state?

– what kind of “measures” will be taken against the initiators?

– will Beg Sabur be held personally responsible for the extremely low level of professionalism and infliction of serious damage to the whole developing industry, which under his leadership has become unprofitable and lagging?

It is clear that rotation will not solve the issue – the very fact that the head of the antimonopoly body was not dismissed from the system, but simply sat in another chair, deprives of hope that they will be somehow brought to a more or less serious account. Instead, it leads to understanding that everything will be given an easy ride.

Question Remains Open: What Initiatives Should Society Expect Next?
Though, while Beg Sabur, his deputies and other similarly incompetent persons continue to lead the work of Communication Service, one can expect nothing good from them. They will continue the destruction of the entire telecommunications industry for as long as possible.

In the event they feel a threat to their personal stability, they will simply go to Russia; they have never refused and are not going to refuse its citizenship, despite the legislative prohibitions. They are not going to live in Tajikistan for long. The example of Mr. Hukumov (former chief railway man, currently lives in the Czech Republic) is a very illustrative case.

But in this situation, I would like to note as well a small positive trend associated with the process of citizens’ struggle for their rights. For the first time in recent years, a veil of fear fell from the eyes of citizens. The people began to actively express their opinions, and after the introduction of new tariffs, the online activism has moved into a real life. The online petitions remained online, however, in the center of the capital, in front of the Opera Theater, a group of citizens collected more than 200 signatures in support of the initiative to revoke the decision of the Antimonopoly Service.

This is demonstrative of the point of view that the people have had just about enough.

As the whole history shows, people’s unrest often begins not with big serious decisions, but arise as a reaction to some trifling case. And this very case becomes the last straw.

And, judging by how many “straws” there have been in recent years in the sphere of communications alone, any next step should be taken with a pinpoint accuracy. Howsoever disenfranchised we are in our society, there are already people among the younger generation for whom the concepts of “freedom” and “rights” are not mere words and who will fight for them.

And the state itself takes part in the upbringing and formation of such individuals – each decree/order/decision/regulatory act that violates or restricts our rights, gives another reason to think of why is it so insulting when in own country, you cannot live freely, learn more about your rights and understand that it is impossible to defend them just by idly sitting by.

With its every illegal decision, the state forms our civic consciousness and contributes to the revival of the once destroyed civil society. I am grateful to the government, particularly to Beg Sabur, at least for that. He does everything not only to undermine the communications industry; unknowingly, he also sacrifices himself so that an ordinary person in Tajikistan becomes a citizen who knows and defends his rights and freedoms.

The materials published in the section “Opinion” present only the personal opinion of the authors and do not reflect the position of the editorial board.

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