New Delhi: Senior bureaucrat Amitabh Kant on Wednesday created a flutter by saying that in a democracy like India people should have the freedom of choice to eat what they want, including beef.
Kant clarified later that he was anwsering questions on start-ups at an event when he was suddenly asked about the beef controversy. "I gave a general reply about the practices in Kerala, my cadre state. That was the context," he said.
Kant, who is Secretary in Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in Government of India, had said, "Well, I believe we are in a democracy which allows people to decide what they want to say, which would allow people to decide what they want to eat."
Asked at an NDTV event if that includes eating beef, he shot back, "of course. There should be freedom of choice. I said it in the context, the fact that I come from Kerala cadre, my neighbour was a Nair, my right hand neighbour was a Brahmin, they all ate beef. We all grew up eating beef in that state. There should be freedom of choice."
Kant had also earlier said he was personally not in favour of banning beef exports, stating that the government should instead stay out of such areas and act as a catalyst for growth.
At the event, Kant, who is also the acting CEO of NITI Aayog, also took a swipe at Bollywood actor Aamir Khan whom he had countered on his remarks over climate of "intolerance" in the country.
"I think everyone should have the freedom to say what they want except when he is the brand ambassador of Incredible India," he said.
Kant, a 1980-batch IAS officer of Kerala cadre, had earlier said Aamir has damaged brand India while being brand ambassador of the celebrated 'Incredible India' campaign. Kant had been the key driver of the campaign.
Defending the exit of Aamir from the campaign, Kant had said the actor, by terming India an 'intolerant country', worked against his role as that of a brand ambassador.
"A brand ambassador promotes a brand. People will come to India and tourist flow will increase only if the brand ambassador of 'Incredible India' promotes the country as 'incredible'. But if the brand ambassador says India is intolerant, he surely is not working as brand ambassador,"
Kant had said.
"The brand ambassador must be the best brand ambassador for promoting and marketing India, he cannot be the destroyer of the brand," he had also said while replying to a query on removal of Khan from the campaign.
"Being a Brand Ambassador imposes responsibilities. U can't run down what u're promoting. That's damaging d brand," he tweeted.
Aamir had in November 2015 stirred a controversy after he expressed "alarm and despondency" over rising instances of intolerance in the country in the past few months and said that his wife (Kiran Rao) even asked if they should move out of India as she feared for safety of their children.