Saturday, July 23, 2011

Politics in UP more about caste, less about development, says Rahul

Continuing his political campaign through Uttar Pradesh's hinterland, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday called on the youth of the state to unite to "topple the state government", citing the example of farmers in Bhatta-Parsaul who "fought for their rights" and won. .

"It was not 50,000 farmers. Merely 100-200 farmers fought for their rights in Bhatta-Parsaul and Tappal, and they changed the national land acquisition policy. Similarly, you all need to get united and fight for your rights. It would be only then your state will witness progress and development," Gandhi told a gathering of Youth Congress activists in Ballia, some 300 km from Lucknow.

"If only 5-10 youth inside this room join hands, they can achieve big targets, and can even topple the state government," he added.

Expressing concern over the "poor development" of Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi said, "Despite representing the most populous state, you are lagging behind.There is no one to look after you."

"The onus is on the people of Uttar Pradesh, particularly youth, who should start looking after themselves and the state. Irrespective of their caste and creed, youths need to come forward if they want to see all-round development of the state," Gandhi said.

"States like Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana are ahead of Uttar Pradesh. Schools and colleges are being set up in such states, but where will the children of the poor people of Uttar Pradesh go?...What will happen to the poor people of the state?...Until the youths do not think about the state, Uttar Pradesh will continue to lag behind," he added.

Hitting out at the Mayawati-led government over the "lawlessness" in the state, Gandhi said, "It's surprising and shocking that chief medical Officers (CMOs) are being killed. People are being eliminated inside the jail.It's happening just because the youth of Uttar Pradesh are still to get united for fighting for their rights and development of the state."

Earlier in the day, Gandhi interacted with the weavers community in Azamgarh, some 300 km from Lucknow, to know about their problems, the party said.

Assuring the weavers all possible help, Gandhi invited their delegation to Delhi to give suggestions for improving their living conditions, Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh told reporters in Azamgarh.

"Rahul Gandhi gave the invitation while holding a `chaupal' (informal meeting) of weavers in the Neweda village. He will now arrange a meeting of weavers with those involved in finalising the draft of the Rs3,000 crore special package earmarked for the weavers in the last union budget," Akhilesh Pratap Singh said.

The informal meeting continued for over an hour, he added.

Gandhi reached Azamgarh on an unscheduled visit while he was on his way to Ballia to address Youth Congress activists. Gandhi Thursday started his two-day tour to eastern Uttar Pradesh to promote the Youth Congress membership drive as part of a sustained campaign to swing the political fortunes of the party in India's most politically consequential state.

On second day of his visit to Eastern UP, AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi again criticised the state government for “misappropriation” of Central funds and political parties in the state for promoting caste politics in the past two decades.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The youth of UP should stand up and question the government

"It is an open fact that there have been irregularities.

If such a thing would have happened in Maharashtra or Delhi or Haryana or Punjab, the government there would have resigned the same day," he said.

"The Centre provides funds worth thousands of crores of rupees for medical facilities to the rural poor under NRHM but the money has been misused by the state government," he alleged, accusing the BSP government of overlooking the rights of farmers and rural people.

Gandhi also lashed out at the UP government for carrying out forced land acquisition. "There have been financial irregularities in Noida where land of the poor has been acquired and given to builders for the Yamuna Expressway. Why is this happening?" he posed.

 He said this was because the youth of the state were not standing up and questioning the government."It is the youth's responsibility," Gandhi pointed out, asking young Congress workers to revive the party and in the process rid the state of Mayawati's "misrule".

With Congress trying to regain its lost moorings in the state, he said the youth leaders must expose the "anti-people and anti-farmer policies" of the BSP government and fan out among the masses to propagate the Centre's people-oriented policies and programmes.

He was addressing the party's youth brigade at Syed Modi stadium here. "Work at grass root level and be sensitive towards the problems of common man," was Gandhi's refrain during his interaction with the Youth Congress workers here and later in Mau district.

After his Kisan Sandesh Yatra in western UP earlier this month where he undertook foot march from villages in Gautam Buddha Nagar to Aligarh, this is his second mass contact programme in the state.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Orissa, I had fought for the rights of tribals in Niyamgiri and I am happy we won the battle

Rahul Gandhi accused the Naveen government of siphoning of funds meant for Centrally sponsored schemes under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and mid-day programme of Sarva Sikshya Abhiyaan (SSA). The benefits have not reached the beneficiaries under these schemes in the state, he said and referred to the CBI probe into MGNREGA irregularities in six districts and dal scam to make his point in this regard.

Stating that Orissa is not a poor state as it is endowed with huge mineral resources like iron ore and bauxite, Gandhi said, people of the state are poor as they have not benefited from the mining activities. Minerals are directly exported, which is wrong, he observed.

Comparing the land acquisition problems of the Posco project in Orissa with Bhatta-Parsaul in the UP, Gandhi said, he is not against any development or project if the rights of poor people hit by the project are protected. “We do not have problem with any project. But there is problem with the end issue, compensation and rehabilitation of tribal and poor people. The poor should get benefit of the project, the locals should get employment and tribals should be comfortably rehabilitated”. He said, his party has prepared 30-point agenda for the Posco project and if these are complied, there will be no problem in implementation of the project.

Referring to his just concluded padayatra in Uttar Pradesh following allegation of forcible land acquisition there, he said, the new land acquisition bill, which will be tabled in the Parliament will benefit the poor and backward people who have a stake in the development. “In Orissa, I had fought for the rights of tribals in Niyamgiri and I am happy we won the battle”.

Addressing the media earlier in the day, Gandhi had described the state government as corrupt, but added the problem was more with implementation. He, however, said, the level of corruption here is not at par with the Uttar Pradesh government, which is the most corrupt state in the country.

Giving instances of Congress-ruled states, Gandhi pointed out that poor people in Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh were getting direct benefits from the developmental programmes while they were denied such facilities in state like Orissa. "MGNREGA, MDM and other schemes are working in full swing in Andhra Pradesh while CBI is probing rural job scam in Orissa," he said asking people to oust the "corrupt" BJD government in order to help the poor to come out of poverty. UPA governemnt was planning to bring Right to Food Bill, Rahul Gandhi said and wondered if it could be properly implemented in Orissa. "I fear whether the Orissa government can implement the food rights perfectly," he said. Dubbing the ruling BJD as a government for rich people', Rahul Gandhi asked the gathering to spread the Congress message in villages in order to oust the state government for a better tomorrow. Earlier in the day Gandhi participated in two youth interaction programmes at Khurda and Bhadrak where he asked young men and women to join Youth Congress to change the fate of the state. "Congress means development of poor, tribals, dalits, backward and minorities," Gandhi said.

What we are against is the pushing aside of poor people because they are poor. If the tribals are pushed aside, we have a problem with that

A day after serial blasts rocked Mumbai, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday ruled out complete eradication of terror attacks in the country but said the UPA government had been successful in controlling such violence to a large extent.

"It is very difficult to stop every single terror attack in the country. Terrorism is something that is impossible to stop all the time. But 99 per cent of terror attacks had been stopped due to strong vigilance and intelligence efforts," the Congress general secretary told the media on the second day of his visit to Orissa.

Rahul added that the UPA government had "promptly" responded to the return of terror attacks in India's financial capital. "The government's response was prompt. The Union home minister is leading the response. We are responding to the violence in a quite organized fashion," said Rahul, who was on a two-day tour of Orissa to urge youths to join the Congress.

The Congress leader, however, stressed on the need for initiating all-out efforts for total elimination of terrorism in the country. He said, "99 per cent of terror attacks have been stopped. We have improved by leaps and bounds. But we have to work and defeat 100 per cent of attacks. The idea is to fight terrorism at the local level." He also conveyed his condolences to all the families affected by Wednesday's explosions which has left 18 persons dead and 131 injured.

Reminded that there was no terror attack in the US after the 9/11 strike whereas India often faced the menace, Rahul said, "The US forces are facing terrorist attacks in Afghanistan."

The Gandhi scion also said the Prime Minister should not be brought under the Lokpal's purview. "If the Lokpal bill is imposed on the Prime Minister while he is in office, you open him up to constant engagement which will be unhealthy for the leadership of the country," he said. "The Prime Minister needs to lead the country and he needs to focus on running the country. I have my concerns over bringing him within the Lokpal's purview while holding office," he said, while describing it as his personal opinion. "The Prime Minister should come under the ambit of the bill the day he left office," he added.

Speaking about the troubled Rs 52,000 crore Posco steel project in Orissa, Rahul drew a parallel with Uttar Pradesh and suggested that the solution could lie in setting it up on non-agricultural land. "My issue on Posco is the same as my issue on Bhatta Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh. What is happening in UP is the transfer of land from the poor to rich people. As far as infrastructure is concerned ... we do not have a problem. We have a problem with the compensation level," he said.

"Our main issue is what the people are going to get at the end. Are they going to be rehabilitated in the company?" Gandhi asked saying that the poor should not be pushed aside.

The Orissa government, he said, has to fulfill 30 conditions set by the Centre on the Posco project, he said.

"If Orissa government fulfills the 30 point programme and we feel the tribals are comfortable and happy with the outcome, that is good. If the tribals are pushed aside, we have a problem with that," Rahul said.

"What we are against is the pushing aside of poor people because they are poor."

The Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government in Orissa came under fire from the Congress leader for "not implementing" centrally-funded schemes and corruption. "It is not a problem of central funds which are abundant. The problem basically relates to corruption and non-implementation of centrally-funded schemes," he told reporters.

Rahul alleged that though Rs 35,000 crore was provided by the Centre to Orissa, the funds were not utilized properly as the BJD government failed to implement various schemes and programmes. Describing the rural job scheme MGNREGA as a dynamic and powerful tool for the uplift of the poor, Rahul claimed that the Orissa government had failed to properly implement it.

Speaking about the membership drive by the Youth Congress, he said youths were joining it in large numbers. Rahul also claimed that the Congress could return to power in the state. "I am confident that the Congress can come to power in Orissa," he said.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Your fight is our fight

"Although the union government is being run by coalition partners and different states have different kinds of problems, the proposed land acquisition bill finally passed would be farmer friendly."

While hearing the grievances of farmers, Gandhi said: "We have a coalition government at the centre in Delhi. There are a number of partners. We have to hold discussions with them; we are talking to our partners. We will bring a pro-farmers' bill; we are trying our best to pass it in the next session of the Lok Sabha."

"It takes time to make a new law and the union government is working on it. If we make the law in haste, it will be wrong. We wish to make a new law which can last for at least next 30 to 40 years if not half of the century."

"We have to find a solution to land acquisition and we can find that through dialogue alone. Don't suppress people and their voices - what the UP government did while acquiring their land forcibly in Greater Noida. You need to involve people, if you don't involve the poor, it amounts to atrocities on them."

He went on to say that the Congress party runs the union government and "we will do our best to give you a good, new land law".

"The state government's intention here does not seem to be good. It seems the state wishes to help only one person - the builders, not the farmers."

He, however, said, "If the Congress government comes to power in UP, it will be your government. It will not be the Congress government but the government of the people of Uttar Pradesh.".

"Your fight is our fight," Gandhi said while charging the Uttar Pradesh government with running the state "to benefit the builders and not farmers".

"Normally governments elected by people are run for the poor. But the Uttar Pradesh government is running for the benefit of big builders. It has forgotten the farmers and labourers, who have toiled and shed their sweat to provide food for the nation," the Amethi MP said.

"Thefts are committed in the dead of night. But here thefts were being committed in broad daylight. The state government is getting this theft done on farmers. Lucknow is getting this theft of land done against all of you and theft against thousands of farmers in UP," Gandhi said.

Claiming that the state's land acquisition policy was full of flaws, he said that such policies should be framed after talks with farmers to take them into confidence.

"Though the Mayawati government brought a new land acquisition policy a few days ago, after our pressure, the new policy was meant not for farmers but for someone else.

It also has a number of shortcomings," said Rahul while questioning the state's decision to exclude all acquisitions already taken place.

"Why should the farmers of Bhatta Parsaul or Tappal not be heard and not given due compensation for land as per new rates. They have given their lives and why does the government forget their loss," said Gandhi, who was referring to the Greater Noida villages where he had joined the farmers' stir in May, and called for the new land policy to be made applicable to farmers with retrospective effect.

Gandhi said farmers were not against development and needed to be involved in the process.

"We are also not against development. Roads should be made. Development is need of the hour. Villages should be linked to cities. But the question is how this will be done.

"Golion se banegi ki ya baat cheet se banegi (this will be done through bullets or through dialogue)," he said.

While accusing the Mayawati government of pursuing "anti-farmer and anti-labourer" policies, Gandhi asked the farmers to join him in the Aligarh Mahapanchayat on July 9 and express their views openly.

"While we are with you, you should show the government what the farmers of the state think about its land policies. The nation will listen to your voice. Your fight is our fight," said Gandhi while garnering support for the Aligarh mahapanchayat.

The AICC general secretary said that the Centre's policies are sympathetic towards the interests of farmers and labourers but claimed that the UP government was busy "constructing mall and stadia to favour the big builders".

"Your land is taken away and you don't even know when your land was taken away. You are not even told about it. You come to know of it only after it is taken away forcibly," Gandhi said.