Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday interacted with students at Princeton University in New Jersey in United States. Rahul, who is on a two week visit to US, in an hour long discussion spoke about the challenges that are present in India as well as the development that the country has been making.
Here are the key takeaways from his interaction
30,000 new youngsters are joining the job market every single day and 450 jobs being provided today. And this doesn’t include the massive pool of the unemployed. I don’t think automation will take away jobs. Nature of the jobs will change and the structure of jobs will change. Whether its the UPA time or the NDA time, though I believe we did better, the job numbers are nowhere near what it should be. There are a lot of jobs that can come from the agricultural sector. India needs to find blue-collar jobs for its people.
I think, the central reason why Mr. Modi arose and to an extent why Mr. Trump came, is the question of jobs in India and in the United States. There is a large part of our population that simply do not have jobs and cannot see a future. And, so they are feeling pain. And they have supported these type of leaders. The problem is that the record is not good enough. So those same people who got angry with us because we could not deliver 30,000 jobs are going to get angry with PM Modi. The central question is resolving that problem.
My main issue with Mr. Modi is that he diverts that issue and points the finger somewhere else instead of saying listen we have a problem. There is anger building up in India right now. We can sense it. So to me the challenge is how to solve that job growth problem in a democratic environment. That’s the challenge. 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.
There are two large migrations taking place- one is completely free and the other is centrally controlled. The systems respond differently. India and China are two huge countries that are transforming from agricultural countries to urban modern model countries. And that’s a huge chunk of the world population. And how these two countries do is going to fundamentally reshape the world. It’s not my place to say that China should be democratic or not. They have chosen their path and we have chosen our path. Bit there is cooperation and competition. We have to figure out how to get our jobs. We have to basically compete with China and frankly we are not doing that well.
China is entering spaces with One Belt, One Road. And China has a particular vision of the world. It’s very clear. And from their perspective it’s a powerful vision. Does India has a similar vision? What does that vision look like? How much cooperation is going to be between us and them? These are basically the fundamental questions going forward. But the thing to realise is that China is moving with tremendous power and we have to work with that.
So I think a lot of synergy between the two countries. Also historically India has maintained balance. So India has had a relationship with China and has had a relationship with Russia. It has had a relationship with the US and both the countries. To me the strategic relationship with the United States is important. But balance is also important in terms of all the other countries. So I would say there is a a slight difference between us and the government
On Make in India:
I like the Make in India concept, but I think that the targeting of Make in India concept should be different. The prime minister feels the targeting of Make in India concept should be large businesses, I believe it should be targeted towards small and medium businesses. Not many small and medium businesses are getting access to finance or to the legal system or the political system. The small companies that should be turning into large is not happening. If Make in India is implemented well, it is a powerful idea.
Transparency is needed. We have a committee system in process but there is no transparency. Making it accessible is necessary. I don’t think there is expertise problem in India, there is access to information problem in India. Transparency is not easy, but it is powerful. You open up the process, people will see and become experts. In 1991, green revolution, every time we opened some process or the other. Giving access to people is good. Shutting down structures is not. People will figure out how to solve a problem and if they don’t know, they will learn and come. I would like to open up the legislature to experts and students so that they can help us with the law making structure.
The main problem is the centralisation of political system. A chief Minister or a prime minister has much power to influence things far outside. A chief minister can decide what happens to a village road. Local government should decide what happens to the road. It is not only a question of decentralisation of power, it is the question of right amount of decentralisation of power to the right level.
On BJP and its policies:
Make in India is something that I think is powerful. I would do it differently. We also helped the government pass GST. Again on the fine tuning, there are slight differences. We would have chosen a uniform GST, they chose five levels. We would have preferred slow implementation but they wanted fast. On the economic policy, there is broad agreement between BJP and us. We have a central difference with BJP and that is India needs to carry everybody.
On Congress’ road ahead:
We were in power for 10 years. We had a vision in 2004 and by 2012, we realised that the vision has 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 agriculture, education and healthcare. And we are going to build that vision not top down but bottom up…by asking students, other stakeholders on how we deal with these problems.
Whenever India has made big shifts, it has always done so on the back of non-resident Indians. People don’t say this, in the freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi was a non-resident Indian, Jawaharlal Nehru was, Ambedkar was, Patel was…you have a huge role to play and I would like you to involve in the vision.
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. There is a belt of 100 million tribal today are not comfortable with the vision. There are a number of states in India that don’t want a single vision forced down their throat and there are minority communities that don’t feel a part of the vision. That is real danger. India’s strength has always been, historically…the ability to embrace people and allow them to flourish in our system. And that’s being challenged today in India. This is the biggest difference between our opposition, PM Modi and us.
Drugs is a serious problem in Punjab. We are working to combat the problem. Setting up rehabilitation units, bringing back industries and including sports is what we are looking at.