Growth and social welfare sustain each other and there can be no compromise on either, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said Saturday, outlining his vision for development and governance. He also pushed his anti-graft agenda, calling corruption “an unacceptable burden on the people”.
Addressing industry body Ficci on Saturday, a clean-shaven Gandhi said, “I don’t think there is a trade-off between investments in the social sector and economic growth... It is today’s investments in people that create tomorrow’s markets. It is today’s markets that allow us to invest in our people’s future.”
Gandhi’s support of people’s movements against mining and land acquisition has often been interpreted as unsympathetic to industry. In April, he had addressed the
Confederation of Indian Industry, speaking about his political vision and what ails the country. On Saturday, he laid bare his policy prescription. A Congress functionary said the idea was to “convey to industry that he understands their concerns”.
Gandhi, 43, spoke of held-up environment clearances that delay projects, inflexible labour laws, arbitrary decision-making that breeds corruption and an education system that doesn’t do the youth justice as areas that need reforms for industry to grow and for the economy to prosper.
“There is excessive administrative and judicial discretion. The loopholes are so big you can drive a truck through them,” he said, referring to industry’s
“frustration” with environmental clearances.
Not only did he project a development model that balances growth and equity, he also warned India Inc of the dangers of a “divisive” political agenda, an oblique reference to the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who is considered popular among business leaders.
As part of the remedy, Gandhi announced plans for a National Resource Investment special project vehicle that auctions projects to the private sector after getting all clearances, called for “difficult reforms” in labour laws and pledged to push six anti-corruption bills.
He recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s address to Ficci in 1931, when the “dark clouds of fascism” were spreading over Europe. “What our people understood intuitively, but the Europeans of the 1930s did not, was that wealth cannot be constructed on poverty. Peace cannot be constructed on conflict. Societies cannot be built on injustice and hatred,” he said.
A Congress source said, “He is saying social harmony is not a political vested interest of the Congress but is imperative for industrial growth too.”