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He Said, They Said

Rahul Gandhi, the new Congress president, has several new ideas to change India, except the ideas are not entirely novel and many are already work-in-progess

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You have heard this before, but the recently-concluded Congress plenary saw a coming of age for party president Rahul Gandhi. In his presidential address, he touched upon important issues such as job creation, agriculture, and education, and also said that he wished to create a new generation of leaders. We have heard this before, but the kind of enthusiasm seen in the party cadres gave the newly anointed president hope for the future.

“We know about the American vision. We know of the Chinese vision. In the next 10 years, I want the world to acknowledge the Indian vision,” he said.

Many would ask why did the party fail to achieve this, especially when his party was ruling at the Centre? This, however, was perhaps Gandhi’s way to signify a change of guard in the party.

He hit at a few high-profile cases of corruption, witnessed in the Modi regime. “Nirav Modi who carried out India’s biggest scam has the same name as our Prime Minister. The most corrupt man in cricket also shares his name with our Prime Minister. So, what does Modi actually mean? The name Modi actually symbolises collusion between India’s biggest crony capitalists and the Prime Minister of India,” the Congress president claimed.

He talked about bringing in a more transparent system in the party, held forth on how he would dismantle the wall separating the youth from the political system, but the key takeaways on jobs, employment, and agriculture stood out.

In the following pages, we reproduce the vision on each of these sectors that he produced, and do a reality check — how his claims stand vis-à-vis the existing facts.

Agriculture & food processing

Our party, since time immemorial has represented farmers. We take up the cause of farmers very strongly.

Today, in every state that I go, farmers tell me ‘we cannot live’. There is no money in agriculture. Suicide is the only way out. Apart from jobs, farm distress is the biggest problem staring at us today.

Today, farmers grow their produce, foodgrains, vegetables. Most of it gets spoilt. On the streets of Uttar Pradesh, you see potatoes. Farmers throw them away. They say ‘we cannot sell our produce’.

The Congress will create a food park network in the entire country. In every district, the farmers would be able to sell their produce — foodgrains, vegetables, etc. — to the food processing factory.

We would never forget that the farmers have built this country. Before technology, before big factories, it’s the farmers who have done the most. We cannot ever forget this.

When we form the government at the Centre, we will protect you. Like we waived Rs 70,000 crore of farm loans, if the need arises, we will take similar measures again.

Our farmers are nation builders and we must respect their cause.”
 
REALITY The cold-chain ecosystem in the country is growing. In the last five years, the rate of growth has been close to 13 per cent, says an ASSOCHAM study. Food parks are being created. There is a proposal to create 42 mega food parks across the country, out of which 10 are already functional. The previous Congress government had talked about the idea, but the actual execution is done under the Modi government.


Apart from this, in the last Budget, the government said the minimum support price (MSP) of crops would be 50 per cent plus the cost of produce. Not just that, many state governments, including the BJP state governments, have announced loan waivers to support ailing farmers.

The Modi government wants to double farmers’ income by 2022, and has therefore introduced a series of reform measures in the farm sector.

SKILLING & EMPLOYMENT

We need to present a vision that is quintessentially India’s vision. People may be divided between the American vision and Chinese worldview, but in ten years of time from now, I want the world to acknowledge that India’s is the best vision. For this, we must provide employment opportunities to our youth. Here we’re competing against China. As when compared to China, we presently produce a handlful of jobs. We have to do this competition with lots of love, not hatred or rivalry.
It’s simple, in every district something or the other is produced. Take Uttar Pradesh (UP), for instance. Whether it’s Kanpur, Mirzapur, Muradabad or Lucknow something or the other is produced in all these districts. Not just in UP. You could also consider examples like Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu.

There is no dearth of skill in India. There is no shortage of intelligence in the country. There is no problem of initiatives and spark in the youth in our country. There is one problem, however. Those who are skilled, those who have the spark, don’t have the bank loans, they don’t have technology.
In our skills roadmap, we will create skills centres in every district, and our government will make sure that they are linked with banks’ support and technology.”  

REALITY During the previous Congress government’s time, skilling largely meant Industrial Training Institutes (ITI). It was the Modi government that created a new ministry on skill development and entrepreneurship. This helped create a new mindset.

The government has already created more than 3,000 multi-skill PMKK (Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra) centres, and the idea is to have such centres in all the districts in the country.

Could they be better operationalised? Definitely yes. But some new beginnings have been made, like the skill ministry using agriculture ministry centres for skilling. A similar arrangement with the power ministry is also being talked about.

There is, however, a challenge. Most of this training is for low-end  jobs such as fitters, plumbers, garderners, etc. In the age of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, these may just be peripheral jobs that the government is targeting.

Be that as it may, the fact is, a beginning has been made, even though there are miles to go.

EDUCATION

One of the most important tasks at hand is education and the education system.
Today, the Vyapam scam is being spread across the country. The youth are sitting on a dharna in Delhi. Question papers are being sold. The tribe of those who pass exams through this business is increasing.

It’s not just the elite that has a right on education. Every youth, every caste, every community, every religion has a right on the education system. Yes, we have IITs, and IIMs. If the Congress is voted back to power at the Centre, we will broadbase the kind of education that is imparted in those IITs and IIMs.  

We respect our institutions. Our rivals, the RSS, want to finish off our institutions. The RSS wants all other institutions to be subservient to it. Whether it’s the judiciary, the police system, or any other institution, the RSS wants its stamp everywhere. This is a battle for truth. We will fight till the end to protect our institutions. We will not back off.”

REALITY It seems the Congress’ charge of Vyapam scam has stuck. Now newer revelations such as the CBSE paper leak has affected lakhs of students across the country, forcing even the Prime Minister to take up the issue with the education minister.

The present government has undertaken a number of progressive measures in the education space, along with continuing with some of the changes that the Congress government had begun, such as taking IITs and IIMs to the hinterlands by creating newer centres.

The present government has also introduced some landmark changes such as giving the IIMs autonomy. It is also contemplating creating a common academic regulator, instead of multiple bodies.

While charges of RSS interference have been levelled, the incumbent in the HRD ministry has introduced many progressive changes as well. This government is committed to creating world-class institutions.


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Magazine 31 March 2018 education politics
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