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Dissent is agreeable, disintegration is not: Venkaiah Naidu

NEW DELHI: “Dissent is agreeable, disintegration is not,” said Minister of I&B, Urban Development and Housing Venkaiah Naidu at the India Today Conclave in Mumbai on Friday.

Naidu was responding to a question on whether freedom of expression was under attack in India. “There are only 6–7 universities where things are happening while everyone at more than 700 universities in India is studying,” he said in reference to unrest at certain universities in the country.

“Taking the law in their own hands is condemnable, but you must understand there is a reaction when sentiments are hurt,” he said in connection with the attack on the sets of the film ‘Padmavati’ recently, adding that freedom of expression cannot be absolute.

Naidu said that, through plans such as Smart Cities, AMRUT and Swacha Bharat, the union government was trying to transform cities in the country. “The funding available to states from the central government has increased to almost 50% of the central share,” he said.

Regarding the perceived slow pace of urban rejuvenation, the minister put the ball in the court of the states. The state governments and urban bodies were responsible for implementation while the union government could only provide funding, he said.

Naidu also stressed the participatory nature of the government’s urban development. “Under the smart city projects, we are ensuring that residents are stakeholders in the urban development process,” he said, adding, “cities have been told to be creditworthy because they will have to raise resources for their development.”

The minister cited massive migration from rural to urban areas in the cities as a major challenge, adding, on a lighter note, that he too had moved from the rural development to the urban development ministry. “It is a process that will happen and can’t be stopped,” he said.

Describing 1975 as a watershed year in his life—the year the Emergency was imposed and he was arrested and jailed—the minister also drew a connection with the launch of India Today magazine in the same year.