Let me begin by acknowledging that my last quar- ter results have not exactly been
resounding. I now know how
it feels when you have to go
to your AGMs with bad news.
The recently held elections
have made their point. We
need to have the foresight
and humility to accept the
messages being expressed to
us without resorting to the
usual props of statistical data
and excuse making. A political party’s strength lies in the
voice of those it represents.
We will listen to the voices
The Congress party has
long prided itself in this very
ability and used it to rise
from adversity time and
again. We will renew ourselves. And will fight strong
and confident in order to
protect the values of tolerance and compassion that are
the essence of India. You are
stakeholders of the Congress
Our bonds with you date back to 1931
when Mahatma Gandhi addressed FICCI’s
fourth annual meeting. We have charted
the growth of our nation side by side. You
understand the global economic environment well; listening to your voice and
heeding it is imperative.
Over the last few months, many of you
have spared time to meet with me and discuss your views. For this I am grateful. I
am in complete agreement with the need
for the regulatory system to be rapidly and
radically modernized. Frankly, there are no
excuses for the length of time required to
clear some of these projects. We are a fast-moving economy. We cannot allow you to
be held back by slow decision making.
Accountability has to be clear, fixed and
The Cabinet Committee on Investment
and the Project Monitoring Group are a
recognition of the need to fast track clearances. Some 300 projects with an investment of over Rs 5 lakh crore (Rs 5 trillion
or $80.84 billion), about 5 percent of
GDP, have been cleared. Sectors affected
by delays in clearances such as power,
petroleum and mining have been the
biggest beneficiaries of this focused
Of course, many projects are still stuck
— some for good reason and some for no
good reason at all. However, much of the
information about these cleared projects
remains obscured from the public domain.
Unfortunately, good news about this
government doesn’t seem to sell newspapers these days.
Many of you have expressed your frustration with environmental clearances that
are delaying projects unduly. There is
excessive administrative and judicial discretion. The loopholes are so big you can
drive a truck through some of them!
Environmental and social damage must be
avoided, but decisions must also be transparent, timely and fair. Accessing land is
difficult and time consuming. It’s a struggle.
The black market in land has got to go.
We need to build a robust and open real
estate market, so that businesses, especially small startups, have affordable access to
The UPA government is considering a
Natural Resource Investment SPV. The
idea is to obtain all clearances before auctioning projects to private players. This is
a powerful and innovative idea.
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.
Recently, we have been able to ensure
that convicted criminals are kept out of
Parliament. In the process, I got to learn
that it is not polite to ask that ordinances
be torn and thrown into the dustbin! This
week, we took a huge step. We passed the
Lokpal Bill. But, as I have said on numerous occasions, we need to go further.
The Congress party has developed a
framework against corruption. I have
appealed for the passage of six critical
anti-corruption bills through parliament.
Let me tell you about two. The amend-
ment to the Prevention of Corruption Act
will protect honest officers and be much
more effective against those who are cor-
rupt. The Grievance Redressal Bill will
ensure that every citizen has the right to
timely delivery of goods and services by
their government. It includes a mecha-
nism to redress their grievances in the
event of any lapse.
This government has done more than
any other government to combat corruption. The Right to Information Act has
been our most powerful weapon in the
fight against corruption. The power of
information is finally in the hands of the
people. This has created a paradigm shift.
Few governments have had the courage to
enact legislation that rendered their
processes more transparent and open to
I am proud to say that the RTI has
shown all concerned the writing on the
wall and, in some cases, it has shown them
the wall of Tihar Jail.
I would now like to talk about some key
We desperately need better knowledge
and innovation systems. We need you to
increase investment in education and
R&D. Most importantly, we need to rid
ourselves of the idea that academia and
industry are separate silos. We need to
drastically upgrade the skill level of our
people and simplify our processes.
India has the brightest youngsters in the
world. But let me be blunt — our current
education system does not do them justice.
There has been a massive scaling up of
investment in education and
training. But we need to do
This is the land that produced Buddha, Kabir, Tagore
and Ramanujan. We have to
produce many more world-class scientists, artists, and
philosophers. Over the last
decade we have achieved the
fastest economic growth in
the history of India.
Despite global headwinds,
Indian industry has sustained
growth because of the energy
of our business community.
The political stability and
rational policy environment
provided by our governments
also made this possible.
We believe that economic
prosperity must include
everyone. Poverty is neither
befitting of human dignity,
nor is it conducive to good
business. I would like to state
clearly that poverty cannot be
fought without growth.
Maintaining robust growth
has enabled the UPA government to invest in people.
In 10 years almost a third of
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 trade off
between investments in the social sector
and economic growth. It is today’s invest-
ments in people that create tomorrow’s
markets. It is today’s markets that allow us
to invest in our people’s future. A mindset
revolution is the fuel for economic growth.
Today self-help groups have shattered
the hold of moneylenders. They have
enabled millions of women to seek credit
to finance their aspirations. They are the
new age customers for the banks. Women
now claim credit as their right and see it
as an opportunity. Such mindset changes
are the result of years of sustained political
effort and investment in people — in their
education, their health, in rural infrastructure and job creation.
The most important thing that we have
to do is to create fulfilling and rewarding
jobs for our youngsters. Those who are
poor, those who belong to the middle class
and those among the 700 million people
above the poverty line but below the middle class threshold. These are the crafts-men who are building India.
India must become the global leader in
manufacturing. This has to be one of our
core missions. Let’s target growing the
manufacturing sector to 25 percent of
GDP generating 100 million new jobs in
‘Corruption is bleeding our people dry’
Rahul Gandhi speaks up on the economy and politics
The Indian Parliament's Lokpal Bill, an anti-corruption law, got the final Presidential assent, January 2.
ADNAN ABIDI/REU TERS