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VK Saraswat, India’s top scientist who thinks Kashmiris use internet only for ‘dirty films’

Ex-DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat, a member of the NITI Aayog, was quoted as saying the internet shutdown in J&K did not have a significant economic impact.

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New Delhi: NITI Aayog member V.K. Saraswat, whose remarks on the internet lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir have kicked up a storm, is one of the most high-profile and controversial former chiefs of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, a Padma Bhushan awardee, a key player behind the development of the Prithvi missile, and the chancellor of JNU.

The erstwhile state of J&K has been under an internet lockdown since August, when the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories. But Saraswat was quoted as saying Saturday that suspension of internet services in the state did not have a “significant effect” on the economy because it was used to only watch “gandi filmein (dirty films)”.

While many slammed his statement for being insensitive, it isn’t the first controversy Saraswat has found himself embroiled in.

Earlier this month, when students and teachers at JNU were attacked by masked persons, allegedly in connection with the fee hike protests at the university, its chancellor Saraswat said in an interview: “When intellectuals react without understanding things, it’s a matter of concern.”

Saraswat was involved in a row last year too, when PM Modi announced the Anti-Satellite weapons test days after the Model Code of Conduct for the general elections came into force. The senior scientist said Manmohan Singh’s UPA government had not given a go-ahead for the mission due to “fear psychosis”, even though it had the wherewithal.

The politically-loaded statement was refuted as “factually inaccurate” by Saraswat’s own former colleagues at DRDO. They also criticised him for dragging the DRDO into a political slugfest.


Also read: Kashmir apex trade body condemns Saraswat’s ‘dirty films’ remark, demands his immediate removal


‘A seasoned scientist’

Though his recent statements have been alleged to have a political slant in favour of the Modi government, Saraswat’s colleagues in the NITI Aayog say his work has never reflected any bias.

“He is a very seasoned scientist… One remembers him for his absolute thoroughness,” said a former senior official in the NITI Aayog, who did not wish to be identified.

“He really goes into the heart of the matter, and has been a key person in all scientific and technological matters in the country, not just at the national level, but also the state level,” the official said.

“None of his work at NITI Aayog has reflected any political bias ever… But at the end of it, these are all political appointments, and ‘Member, NITI Aayog’ is a Minister of State rank, so one cannot expect complete political neutrality,” the official added.

Gave original ‘Make in India’ call

Saraswat’s career is stuffed with notable achievements. Armed with a PhD in combustion engineering from Osmania University, Saraswat started his career at the DRDO in 1972. From designing, developing and producing the Prithvi missile, Saraswat played a leading role in inducting India’s first surface-to-surface missile system into the armed forces.

Though Saraswat has worked with the defence sector, he has often locked horns with the Army on key issues. In 2012, years before the Modi government came to power and gave emphasis to ‘Make in India’ in the sector, Saraswat had thrown his weight behind indigenous technologies and equipment in defence.

“Services also must understand that while the temptation may be overwhelming to field proven, state-of-the-art imported systems, they too have a role to play in the country’s economic and industrial growth. No foreign system can be customised to completely address our long-term requirements,” he had said in the presence of then-Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, Admiral Nirmal Verma and Gen. V.K. Singh.

Saraswat was part of the team that India’s ‘missile man’ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, later the President of India, had hand-picked to work on the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. Saraswat was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013.


Also read: NASA is not the final word on space debris from A-SAT, says former DRDO chief Saraswat


Controversies at DRDO

In the same year that the UPA government awarded him the Padma Bhushan, it decided not to extend Saraswat’s tenure as DRDO chief after a secret report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which found that “DRDO has been developing equipment which is either sub-standard or has extended deadlines and additional budgets”.

“Many of the projects have been sanctioned without the requisite government approval. Only 10 per cent of projects have come to the ministry for clearance. Corruption and nepotism exists in the upper echelons and there is an exodus of qualified scientists,” the report noted.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Defence took the unprecedented decision of imposing severe restriction on the DRDO chief’s financial powers.

A year after his retirement from the DRDO, Saraswat, along with D. Malakondaiah, director of the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, were sentenced to three weeks’ simple imprisonment by the Madras High Court. The two were held guilty for contempt of court for not following the court’s April 2009 order related to re-employment of a clerk in a school run by a wing of the DRDO.

ThePrint tried to reach Sarawat through calls and text messages but was unable to do so till the time of publishing this report.


Also read: India lost at least $1.3 billion to internet shutdowns in 2019


 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. If Internet was used for watching dirty videos, then there was no justification for an INternet clampdown. In one line, Saraswat has undermined the logic and decisions taken by Modi and Shah.

  2. VK Saraswat is wrong. He didn’t tell the whole truth. Kashmiri youth not only watch dirty film, but also use internet for co-ordinating with separatists and terrorists.

    • generalizing about all Kashmiri youth is totally wrong, since only a few would be sympathizing with the terror elements. Type casting an entire people of a region goes totally against national unity and brotherhood.

  3. It is a news report about a controversial comment by someone in a position of responsibility. It is plain stupid to expect a discussion on all of Kashmir’s problems in such a report. And by the way – there has been articles on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits on the Print. If only you would care to read.

  4. One who utter like this regarding J&K people is not at all an educated person, whatever his credibility is.Such fellow is a NITI Ayog member? Shame !!!!!

  5. His statement is contemptuous to Supreme Court of India judgment which declared access to Internet is a fundamental right. I think by making such nonsense statements to gain media galore, this incompetent Ex Chief of DRDO is eying for a Rajya Sbah seat from BJP as his worthless trnure as member NITI ayog is ending… LET ME TELL YOU ONE THING… I HAVE NEVER SEEN A SCIENTIST WHO WEAR RINGS ON ALL FIVE FINGERS… I REALLY WONDER HOW SUCH A WEAK AND SUPERSTITIOUS PERSON BECOME SUCCESSFUL THAT TOO AS A SCIENTIST!….. MAY BE BEING AT RIGHT TIME AT RIGHT PLACE MATTERS A LOT IN CLIMBING THE LADDER

  6. It’s really a shame for a former Director of DRDO or his equivalent to be holding the kind of views that he holds; I am nobody to comment on him as a Scientist! I add anyone who gets to rise to the level that he did has to have the technical skills.

    However, I don’t know what kind of human manager and a human being he was if he believes that the people make use of the Internet just for watching the pornos even if viewing pornos gets included in the utilisation; this won’t be only with the citizens of J&K and will be part of the utilisation of humans in general. He and his family members included.

    Unless Mr Saraswat has made the statement with a view to providing justification to the Govt restricting the use to a very limited area. In my views, his statement is coming from this area.

  7. On the day, 30 years ago mobs marched on the streets of Srinagar shouting to the minority Kashmiri Hindus “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive” or “Either convert to Islam, leave the land or die”, is this the best article that The Print could write on Kashmir? Are that date and that ethnic cleansing of no relevance to the editorial board and the journalists in The Print, who pontificate to us on all matters under the sun?

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