Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Describing corruption as the biggest issue that is “bleeding people” of India, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the situation was unacceptable and that is why the Congress-led UPA government pushed for the passage of the Lokpal Bill in Parliament.
Addressing a FICCI meet here, Rahul Gandhi said, "Corruption is bleeding our people dry. It is an unacceptable burden on the people of our nation. We must fight corruption with all our strength and determination."
Lauding his party’s government, the Gandhi scion – sporting a clean-shaven and business-like look – said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has done more to combat corruption than any other government.
In his valedictory address at FICCI, he further highlighted that the Congress has developed a framework against corruption.
He listed in this regard the steps like rejecting the Ordinance to overturn a court verdict that held that convicted criminals be kept out of Parliament and Assembly and passage of Lokpal Bill, but added "we need to go further".
“I have appealed for the passage of six critical anti-corruption bills through Parliament,” he added.
Rahul, whose strong denunciation of government`s ordinance on convicted lawmakers saw it being junked at the last moment, also said he has learnt that it is "not polite" to ask that ordinances be torn and thrown into the dustbin.
Noting that the “RTI Act has shown many concerned the writing on the wall”, Rahul stated: “We cannot allow ourselves to be held back by slow decision making. Accountability has to be clear, fixed and time bound.”
‘Arbitrary power biggest problem’
He noted that politics in India was changing and transparency was increasing.
“The biggest problem in India is arbitrary power. We have to start building rules and structures if one wants a modern country,” Rahul said.
Joining the debate on growth versus welfare, Rahul said both must go hand in hand since it is "investments in people that create tomorrow`s markets”.
"There is a view that our investments in food security, employment guarantee and rural development are a drag on economic growth. I don`t believe there is a tradeoff between investments in the social sector and economic growth," Gandhi told corporate leaders.
"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," he said.
Talking about issues facing the common man, the Congress leader said high inflation was the government’s biggest and most immediate concern.
“It (inflation) hurts people every day; beating inflation is our priority,” he said.
Focusing on the economy part, Rahul said “the Congress’ aim is that when India celebrates its 100th birthday, it should be the largest economy in the world… second to none”.
Listing out his vision, he said “important thing we have to do is to create fulfilling jobs. Middle class people and craftsmen need to be connected to global market.”
As per Rahul, environmental and social damage must be avoided while but decisions must be transparent, timely and fair.
“It is possible to carve out a clear line between what`s needed for business and what`s needed for environment,” the Congress V-P said.
"Many of you have expressed frustration with environmental clearances that are delaying projects unduly. There`s excessive administrative and judicial discretion. The loopholes are so big you can drive a truck through some of them," he said.
"Areas that are absolutely critical, we need to be very careful. But in others, we can carve out a way. There is a middle path," he said, adding one cannot damage the Himalayas, which is irrevocable, but sustainable development could and must be pursued.
Amid applause, he said the UPA government was examining a holding company, called a special purpose vehicle, for investments in natural resources, so that all clearances can be obtained before their auction to private players.
He also stressed upon the need to open up the manufacturing sector.
Responding to a question about Land Acquisition Bill acting as an impediment to growth, Gandhi said that there is also a "cost of not having Land Acquisition Bill".
"Government has not abdicated its responsibility. There are large infrastructure spaces where acquisition is possible... There are costs of not having land acquisition bill, too. People will mobilise. In India there is competitive politics and people will use it.
"Take the Tata (Nano) example in West Bengal. It was the absence of law, which allowed such a mobilisation. You have to respond to the issue...With increased transparency, you will see that it will protect you from hidden costs in acquisition.”
Further, Rahul said there was a need to focus on education for skill development.
“We have to completely re-invent our thinking about education. Access to education needs to be increased, modern technology has huge potential to do that,” Rahul said.
“We need to build value like Google,” he noted further.
Focusing on society, Rahul said peace cannot be constructed on hate and societies cannot be built on injustice.
“Wealth cannot be constructed on poverty and peace cannot be constructed on injustice,” he said.
In a veiled attack on BJP, Rahul warned against its "divisive ideology full of hatred" and vowed to protect tolerance and compassion that are the essence of India
“The Congress mission is anchored in the idea that humanity needs to be united in love, compassion and harmony,” he said.
Reflecting on the recent setback in Assembly elections, Rahul said that “one needs to be humble to accept people’s verdict.”
"Let me begin by acknowledging that we didn`t really hit a six in the last elections. We did not do as well as we expected and I now get the sense, I now understand what it feels like when you have to go to your AGMs with bad news," Gandhi said with a grin.