NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat on Sunday kicked up a row after he said that the shut down of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 did not have any significant impact on the economy, as people there did nothing other than watching "dirty films" online.
He also said that internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir to prevent certain elements from "misusing" information that could affect law and order situation there. Saraswat was speaking to reporters in Gandhinagar on Saturday after attending the convocation of the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
"What difference does it make if there's no internet there? What do you watch on internet there? What e-tailing is happening there? Besides watching dirty films, you do nothing there," he said.
"If there is no internet in Kashmir, it does not have any significant effect on the economy," he added. Saraswat said the reason for suspending internet
services in Jammu and Kashmir was to prevent certain elements from misusing information.
"If Article 370 had to be removed, and if Kashmir had to be taken forward, we knew there were elements there which will misuse this kind of information in a manner that will affect the law and order situation," he said.
Meanwhile, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) condemned NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat's remarks and demanded his immediate removal.
KCCI President Sheikh Ashiq said: "We condemn these remarks. They are spreading venom against the people of Kashmir. Nobody gives him the right to speak like this about the people of Jammu and Kashmir and utter this nonsense against us."
Ashiq also said the whole world knows that the Valley is suffering due to the internet shutdown and the losses to the business sector here have amounted to over Rs 18,000 crore in the past nearly six months.
Internet services, landline and mobile phones were snapped across Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of Centre's announcement to scrap special status of the erstwhile state and its bifurcation into Union Territories on August 5.
While most of the services except mobile internet were restored in Jammu within a week, Kashmir witnessed restoration of landlines and postpaid mobile services and internet facilities to essential services like hospitals in phases.
On Saturday, The Jammu and Kashmir administration ordered the restoration of the prepaid mobile service in the Valley after over five months of suspension besides the 2G mobile data service on postpaid connections for accessing "whitelisted" sites across the Jammu division. 2G mobile data services on postpaid mobiles for accessing the whitelisted sites were resumed in only two districts -- Kupwara and Bandipora -- in Kashmir.
(With inputs from PTI)