Rahul ‘discovers’ Karnataka as a progressive state

March 28th, 2008 - 8:56 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Balaji
Bangalore, March 28 (IANS) Congress Young Turk Rahul Gandhi hailed Karnataka as a progressive state and praised the contribution of Bangalore to the knowledge sector. Addressing students of Anujman Polytechnic on the outskirts of Hubli in north Karnataka Thursday, on the third lap of his five-day tour of the state, Gandhi said that the people of Bangalore and Karnataka were hard working and had made great contributions to make India great.

“During the last two-three days I have been touring the state, I have found Karnataka progressive and its people hard working despite problems. Every foreign dignitary who comes to India wants to know more about Bangalore, especially its contribution in the IT field.

“India will be grateful to the people of Karnataka,” Gandhi said in English, drawing a round of applause when his speech was translated into Kannada by state Youth Congress leader Krishna Byre Gowda.

In an oblique reference to Uttar Pradesh where he represents the Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, Gandhi lamented that the state was lagging behind compared to Karnataka.

“I come from a state called Uttar Pradesh where the freedom struggle began. It used to be one of the fastest moving states in India. Not any more. There is a lot Uttar Pradesh can learn from Karnataka and catch with other advanced states to regain its glory,” the scion of Nehru-Gandhi pointed out.

Earlier, interacting with students of Nettur Technical Trade Foundation (NTTF) training Institute at Dharwad, about 510 km from Bangalore, Gandhi exhorted students to join politics and contribute their mite to make the country strong.

“You are the future of India. Besides studies and professional or occupational aspirations, you must take interest in politics. There is a great need for young blood in politics. We need a lot more young minds and hearts in politics to maintain continuity and create a generational difference in serving the country, and it’s over a billion-strong people,” the 37-year-old noted.

After the address, Gandhi reached out to a few students who were waiting patiently for over two hours. He shook hands and exchanged pleasantries besides giving his autograph to some of them.

When a student told Gandhi that higher education was unaffordable, especially to the less privileged sections, he replied that he would take up the issue of reduced fee structure for college and varsity students, especially professional courses at the appropriate forum.

At similar interactions with students of BVB College in Hubli and earlier at Manipal College Wednesday, Gandhi said he would value all the knowledge and experience he was gaining during his Karnataka tour, which he added was meant to connect with people, especially youths and rural folk.

“I have been getting a positive response from one and all and I am enjoying every minute of my visit. In turn, people are also responsive and the interactions are very encouraging. I have interacted with all sections of the society and I hope to return to Karnataka soon,” Gandhi said in Hindi, as the people in Malnad region are familiar with the national language.

Asked by a student why he had taken up the task of building the party despite the presence of several leaders in the Congress, Gandhi said he was only trying to gain experience and interact with people to understand them.

“Though we have several leaders to build the party, it is important for me as a young politician to travel across the country, meet people and get to the root of their problems,” Gandhi replied.

As is his wont, it was a reality check for Gandhi when he learnt from two farmwomen on his way to Gadag and Ron that they were not aware of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

Stepping out of the bullet proof BMW at an unscheduled stop, Gandhi walked up to the women, waiting on the roadside for a glimpse of him, and asked them through an interpreter whether they heard or known about NREGA.

It was a revelation when they said “no”. On further probing, they told him they earned Rs.25 a day working in the fields for six hours while their husbands had moved to Bangalore for jobs.

Similarly, during a series of meetings with farmers, weavers, teachers, self-help group members and anganwadis, en route Badami, Bagalkot and Bijapur districts, Gandhi was told by people that there was no development in their region and they were yet to benefit from various government schemes involving billions of rupees.

The “disconnect” between policies or schemes and their implementation or delivery mechanism was a harsh reality for him.

At a Krishi Vigvyan Kendra (KVK) in the backward district of Bijapur, several farmers told Gandhi that the Rs.600-billion loan waiver scheme would not bail them out as their land holdings were more than the stipulated norm of two-three hectares.

And among the eligible farmers, many told him they were at the mercy of moneylenders because they had no access to institutional loans from banks or cooperatives.

The landless farmers also told Gandhi that many of government programmes such as funds for education, healthcare and housing did not reach or benefit them.

In the northern belt of the state, which has witnessed a number of farmer suicides due to successive droughts, crop failure and bad debts, Gandhi assured cotton farmers that the benefits of the loan-waiver scheme would reach them and that they would be eligible for borrowing afresh to invest in agriculture.

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