RG’s empowering ‘real India’ hurts biz world. Find Why?

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi (RG) committed a huge mistake while addressing business leaders at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) this week. He did not say what the India’s elite wanted to listen – his vision for their wealth to grow.

Instead, he opted to take the business leaders obliquely for failure to listen to aspirations of common Indians and share their wealth with the deprived. When he said that “we should empower a billion Indians” to solve the problems facing the country Gandhi was apparently referring to the non-inclusive approach of the industry.

The Indian industry has been repulsive to the UPA government’s bid for affirmative action in the private sector meaning more jobs to the deprived sections such as scheduled caste, tribes and minorities, who constitute about 40% of India’s population.

So far, the Indian companies have not come out with any data on special effort to become inclusive for the youth of these deprived sections. There is no structured training to help youth from weaker sections to benefit from India’s booming industry.

The jobs mostly available for them are at the lowest levels with very little opportunity to move up the ladder clogged with typical Indian caste and creed mindset. And it is a reason for one’s inability to spot even a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from weaker sections managing any of the major Indian companies.

The non-inclusive nature of the Indian industry can be gauged from its refusal to share data with the Sachar Panel on employment of minorities. They would also refuse to share similar data on employment of scheduled caste and scheduled tribes on account of independence and accountability only to their share-holders, not people of India.

Gandhi rightly wanted the business leaders to be “compassionate” because in the past they have been ruthless in destroying livelihoods for profit making.

A government survey released on Friday said that tribes lost access to minor forest produce – contributes to half of their income – worth Rs. 400 crore in three years – 2009 to 2011 – on account of diversion of forestland for industry.

Despite being the most mineral rich and industry intensive areas, India’s tribal belt is a national shame. Half of the tribal falls below the abysmally low poverty line. They have highest rate of child malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality among any social groups. If the industry had been inclusive in real sense the picture for them would had been much rosier.

There is also inherent conflict in Gandhi’s mantra of “listening to people” with the UPA’s economic policies. The government in the last two years had turned deaf towards protest of its policies and had stonewalled the dissenting voice in the name of fostering economic growth.

Noted social activist Aruna Roy had repeatedly said people’s voice remains unheard in public policy framework. The UPA government had failed to make mandatory for its departments to hold consultations with people on important policy issues despite recommendation by Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council.

The economic policies pursued by the UPA have caused widening of poor-rich divide because of unequal distribution of wealth generated, another contradiction with Gandhi’s philosophy. The UPA, in fact, had helped the industry more than common people of India.

Gandhi may have made all correct noises for 1.2 billion Indians to prosper together but the big unanswered question is whether the present political-bureaucratic system will allow him to implement his mantra.

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