The Niti Aayog member V.K. Saraswat came out with a preposterous statement justifying the denial of the Internet to Kashmir and then did a typical somersault in saying he had been quoted out of context. First, a top scientist like him should know what a breach of fundamental rights it is to deprive people of the Internet. Second, would any progressive person express such a despicable opinion of the Internet, which has empowered the world in countless ways just because there are dark aspects like access to pornography to it too? It is akin to a scientist who helped develop the Prithvi pleading for the missile programme to be shut down because it also has attacking capabilities that can be misused.
The top court slated the Union government for the Internet lockdown in the Valley for months together. This was a clear breach of the rights of citizens in a modern democracy. Whatever the Centre did in the year 2020 in granting selective 2G connections to a set of sanitised sites is a cosmetic ploy to placate the court. When normal life has been disrupted and commerce thrown out of gear because of restrictions even on people’s movement, the denial of the Internet is just human cruelty.
As an endorser of all government policies and programmes, retired scientists and bureaucrats may get plum assignments. What a comedown the Niti Aayog is from the Planning Commissions of old which were no rubber stamps of the Union government. They were proper forums for deep discussions on social and economic conditions and conduits of wisdom on what could be done for the public good. Filling the Niti Aayog with “yes” men has not helped this think tank module where there is less thinking and more shooting off of mouths leading to the expression of distressing opinions that does little for the government and the economy — even less for the people.