V K Saraswat
V K Saraswat

Ahmedabad/Srinagar: One expects a Niti Aayog member V K Saraswat to come up with a better analogy.

In his zeal to explain that the Internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir did not have any significant impact on the state’s economy, Saraswat went off the tangent and declared that people in the Valley use Internet only for "watching dirty films".

The comments elicited a strong reaction from trade bodies which demanded his immediate removal for "maligning" the people of the Union Territory and tarring them with the same brush. The Congress and the CPM lost no time in joining the chorus.

Incidentally, earlier this month, the Supreme Court had described internet connectivity as a "fundamental right" and asked the administration to review all curbs that have been in place for the last 164 days.

The Niti Aayog member made the controversial remarks in Gandhinagar after attending the convocation of the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.

"What difference does it make if there is no internet there? What do they watch on internet there? Besides watching dirty films, you do nothing else," Saraswat told reporters in response to a query.

Taking to Twitter, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said it was "disappointing to see a member of Niti Aayog uttering such words," adding that there is no point in expecting these people to revive the economy.

Asked about his remarks, Saraswat claimed that he was "quoted out of context" and offered to apologise, if he had offended sensibilities. Incidentally, the Valley is bleeding due to the internet shutdown and the losses to the business sector have mounted to over Rs 18,000 crores.

Saraswat also tried to justify the internet shutdown in J&K by claiming that it is necessary for the development of the region and maintenance of law and order, since certain elements try to misuse online platforms to create unrest.

People in Jammu and Kashmir have been without internet since August 5 last year, when the Centre scrapped the state's special status under Section 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into two union territories. The internet blackout was criticised by many in India and abroad, including the United Nations and the US.

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