By Anjali Nambissan:
Rahul Gandhi’s all guns blazing response to former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s allegations of his interference in her work as MoE does not make him the good guy. Not even close.
We all knew he wouldn’t take it lying down, because he is such a vocal leader. The Internet abounds in memes of the wondrous things Rahul Gandhi said last year.
But, “Yes…I did so…The only reason why I am in politics is because I stand by the poor, because I want to fight for their rights. Yes, I called her and told her to ensure that their rights weren’t infringed upon. I admit it…” does not make him the champion of the rights of the poor.
Someone needs to give the PR adviser to the Vice President of the Congress Party of India a rigorous crash course on media relations and public image.
First, I do not think that simply because his cause is (seemingly) noble, he can use that to justify interfering with the functioning of a government ministry or putting undue pressure on a minister of the government of India. What’s to say that he won’t do it for other, more unscrupulous reasons the next time? There’s a reason why party affiliations are checked at the door of the Office of a Union Minister in the Government of India.
Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. That did not absolve him of his crimes. He was still a wanted criminal.
As poor as we are rich
Secondly, I would like to cast some harsh light on Rahul Gandhi’s noble stand in the wake of a pretty neat report published in the Economic and Political Weekly early last month.
Sanchita Bakshi, a Young Professional with the now-disbanded Planning Commission of India; Arunish Chawla, Joint Secretary (Expenditure), Ministry of Finance and Mihir Shah, Secretary at Samaj Pragati Sahayog and former member of the Planning Commission, studied statistics, data and academic literature on levels of development in 640 districts and 5955 sub-districts of India. They define ‘development’ on the basis of five indicators – proportion of agricultural works to total number of workers, access to electricity, female literacy rate, access to drinking water and sanitation facilities, and access to banking. After all this commendable effort, they found that the most developed and least developed sub-districts exist within the same districts of India.
“In fact, we have as many as 27 districts which have sub-districts that are both in the top 10% and bottom 10% in the list of sub-districts. Furthermore, we have 92 districts that include sub-districts from both the top 20% and bottom 20% sub-districts. And ﬁnally, when we look at the top 30% and bottom 30% of the sub-districts in the country, they coexist in as many as 166 districts of India,” says the report.
And what should really blow the hat off of Rahul Gandhi’s head is that in the introduction to the report, the authors lament that “intense forms of poverty and deprivation” are mostly concentrated in areas “inhabited by Adivasi communities.”
It’s fair to say that apart from calling up and interfering with Jayanthi Natarajan’s work in the MoEF, Rahul Gandhi did precious little on “behalf of tribal and poor people”.