Kerala’s social harmony under stress; new development strategy needed, says Sonia Gandhi during a summit virtually organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies
Attacking the Centre, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on March 2 said unemployment is high in the country and its informal sector is in shambles following the “ill-considered demonetisation decision” taken by the BJP-led government in 2016.
He also criticised the Central government for not holding regular consultations with the States.
Inaugurating a development summit virtually organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies (RGIDS), an economic think tank aligned to the Congress ideology in poll-bound Kerala, Dr. Singh said temporary measures by the Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India to paper over the credit problem cannot blind us to the looming credit crisis ahead that could affect the small and medium sector.
“Unemployment is high and the informal sector is in shambles, a crisis precipitated by the ill considered demonetisation decision taken in 2016,” he said at “Pratheeksha 2030”. The summit was organised to launch a Vision Document, a framework of ideas for development of Kerala well in advance of the State elections.
He said in Kerala and in many other States, public finances are in disarray with States having to resort to excessive borrowing, which creates an intolerable burden on future budgets.
“Federalism and regular consultation with states, which was the cornerstone of India’s economic and political philosophy as enshrined in the Constitution, no longer finds favour with the present Central government,” he said.
Dr. Singh said while Kerala’s social standards are high, there are other sectors that need strong attention in the future.
“There are many roadblocks ahead that the state has to overcome. The global downturn of the last two or three years, aggravated by the pandemic, has made the global interface of Kerala more fragile.
“While the increased use of digital modes of work may keep the IT sector afloat, tourism has been hit badly and the rate at which the pandemic is galloping in Kerala poses challenges for this industry,” Dr. Singh said.
Noting that the focus on health and education has enabled Kerala to take advantage of job opportunities elsewhere in the country and in all parts of the world, Dr. Singh said this has led to a growing stream of remittances from abroad which created a booming real estate sector and sharp growth of the services sector, led by tourism and information technology.
“In the midst of all the gloom, I see the UDF’s steadfast adherence to planned growth with a clear sense of direction and concern for the common man a beacon of hope, not only for Kerala, but for the whole country” he said.
“When I presented the national budget in 1991 as Finance Minister, I quoted Victor Hugo, who had said, ‘Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.’ I get the feeling that the unanimity and clarity displayed by the UDF on the road ahead will lead to Kerala’s idea moment arriving this year,” he said.
Kerala’s social harmony under stress: Sonia
Kerala’s social harmony and amity have come under stress and strain, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said as she advocated for a new development strategy for strengthening the bonds of brotherhood among people and overall development of the southern state.
“Kerala has been a lesson to other parts of the country and indeed the world on how to preserve and promote social harmony and amity.
“This has come under stress and strain and future development strategy must have, as one of its basic objectives, the strengthening of the bonds of brotherhood (and sisterhood) that have been the hallmarks of Kerala’s wonderfully diverse society,” Gandhi said in a message to a virtual summit organised by RGIDS in Thiruvananthapuram.
Referring to the much talked about Kerala Model of Development, Ms. Gandhi said today the State faces new, unprecedented challenges and it has been accentuated by COVID-19 pandemic and called for fresh thinking on economic growth and social security in the southern state.
“It’s clearly time for fresh thinking on economic growth that will revive investments, create productive jobs, protect the environment, build resilience to climate change, mitigate natural disasters, enhance social security for organised and unorganised labour and improve, the well-being of farmers and their families,” she said in the message read out in the summit.
The Congress president said over the past six decades and more the Kerala Model of Development has resulted in many impressive achievements for the State in areas like public health, education and literacy, gender empowerment and social justice.
“These challenges have been accentuated by the crisis the entire world has had to confront due to Covid-19 pandemic that has still not run its course,” she said.
Hailing the summit, Ms. Gandhi said these consultations have resulted in the preparation of a Vision Document that is being released today.
“Actually, this not just a Vision Document; its also a Mission Document that presents a detailed road map for fulfilling the aspirations of the people of the state”, she said and congratulated the RGIDS team headed by senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala and director B.S. Shiju that has “worked so hard” on this initiative.
“All I wish to add is that the Indian National Congress will soon, by winning the trust and confidence of the people of the state, begin implementing the Vision/Mission Document in letter and spirit,” she said.