Jobs, Make in India, Congress’ vision: Here’s what Rahul Gandhi said at Princeton
The Congress vice president is on a two-week tour of the United States.india Updated: Sep 20, 2017 20:30 IST
At an interaction with students and faculty members of the prestigious Princeton University on Wednesday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi talked of the challenges India faces in the present as well the progress made by the country in recent history.
Gandhi, 47, is in the US on a two-week-long tour, and has earlier addressed students at University of Berkeley and met industry leaders. In the hour-long discussion at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Security Studies, Gandhi answered questions from Professor Shivaji Sodhi as well as the assembled students.
Here are some of the things he spoke about at length:
When asked what he thought was the central challenge facing the country, Gandhi said it was the lack of jobs.
“30,000 new youngsters are joining the job market every single day and yet the government is only creating 500 jobs a day. And this doesn’t include the massive pool of already unemployed youngsters,” Gandhi said.
“The central reason why a Mr Modi rose--and to an extent why Mr Trump came--is the question of jobs in India and the United States,” said the Congress vice president.
Gandhi was also candid in admitting that the UPA government failed to deliver on its promise of jobs.
“Frankly, the Congress party was unable to do it. But Modi is also unable to do it. It is a deeper problem, so we have to first accept it as a problem and then we have to unite at solving it. Right now nobody is willing to accept,” Gandhi said.
Responding to a question on what has changed on the societal front in the last 25 years, this is what Gandhi said:
“Caste structures, which were central, have been weakened. Democracy has been eroding it, but I don’t think it’s doing it fast enough and new forms of hierarchy are replacing it. On social mobility, quite a lot of progress but a lot more to be done,” he said.
On Make in India
On being asked what is the one idea from the Modi government that he wishes his government has thought of, Gandhi said it was ‘Make in India’.
“I think Make in India is a good idea. If implemented well, it is a powerful idea..it’s a good direction.”
He had earlier brought up Make in India as well, saying he would have implemented it differently.
“The prime minister feels the targeting of Make in India concept should be large businesses, I believe it should be small-scale businesses… small and medium companies should be turning into large companies and that’s not happening.”
On changes within the Congress party
“We were in power for ten years. In 2014, we had a vision that we began in 2004. By 2012, we felt that that vision had run into trouble.
A large part of what we are going to do is work on a vision for the next ten years that will focus on how to solve the job problem, will focus on education, agriculture, healthcare. And we are going to build that vision not top down but bottom up...by asking students, other stakeholders.”
“Whenever India has made big shifts, it has done so on the backs of non-resident Indians. India Mahatma Gandhi was a non-resident Indian, Jawaharlal Nehru was, Ambedkar was, Patel was…you have a huge role to play.”
On centralisation of power
“The main problem is the centralisation of political system. A chief minister decides what happens to a village road (but) it should be the local governments deciding what happens to a village road.”
“China is entering spaces, with one-belt-one-road. And China has a particular vision of the world. It’s very clear... Does India have a similar vision? What does that vision look like? How much cooperation will be between us and them? These will be the fundamental questions going forward. But the thing to realise is that China is moving forward with a lot of power.”
“India has historically maintained balance..it has had a relationship with the US, with China, with Russia, with Iran. To me the strategic relationship with the United States is important, but balance is important too.”
On inclusive politics
To me, the single biggest achievement of the Congress party is to give a vision for everybody...In the 21st century, if you leave some one out from your vision, you are asking for trouble.
“The central challenge in India is the politics of polarisation, where you pit one community against the other and you create spaces for other people to come in...that’s where the real danger is. India’s streght has always been, historically...the ability to embrace people and allow them to flourish. And that’s being challenged today in India.