‘Development is not about factories, dams and roads. Development is about people.’

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, by a suicide bomber at an election rally in Sriperumbudur. The assassin was a member of the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist organisation Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which held deep-seated grievances against Gandhi due to his government’s involvement in the Sri Lankan Civil War. India’s former Prime Minister was only 46 at the time.

Today, at a time when “development” has become a buzzword used by politicians of all ideologies, we take a look at what Rajiv Gandhi had to say on the matter. Quotes by historical and political figures are a key part of the syllabus for the UPSC CSE paper.

“Development is not about factories, dams and roads. Development is about people. The goal is material, cultural and spiritual fulfilment for the people. The human factor is of supreme value in development.”

The concept of development emerged in the post World War II era, when European colonialism was on its way out and a number of independent countries in what we today call the Global South emerged. In the early years, modernisation theory was the dominant framework in development discourse and practice. It emphasised industrialisation, technology transfer, and Western-style institutions as pathways to progress. 

Notably, there was an exaggerated emphasis on infrastructure projects. Beyond the human benefits of such projects, they were also seen as symbols of modernity and progress. In India, the focus on infrastructure can be seen in Nehru’s efforts in building dams and other key infrastructure.

While infrastructure development is undoubtedly necessary, it is not sufficient. This is what the Rajiv Gandhi quote tries to convey. Development itself is not about the “factories, dams and roads”, it is about the people who are to be benefited from it. That always has to be the central consideration while thinking of development. 

While the tangibility of mega infrastructure projects makes it easy to cite them as evidence of development, real development focuses on human beings as the ultimate end (and means) of development.

“The goal is material, cultural and spiritual fulfilment for the people.”

Rajiv Gandhi further details what the goal of his people-centric idea of development is over here. 

Material fulfilment – meeting basic needs, having prosperous lives – is important. But so is the cultural and spiritual fulfilment of people. While modernisation theory focussed on material development, that too in a limited sense, today, development thinkers and planners acknowledge the complexity of human existence and consequently multifaceted nature of human requirements.

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Ahead of PM Modi’s state visit to U.S., Rahul Gandhi to address rally at Madison Square Garden

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the U.S., in third week of June, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi will address a public rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden on June 4. The public rally will cap his week-long tour of the U.S., that includes a talk at the Stanford University.

According to sources, what set plans in motion was an invitation from Stanford professors Larry Diamond and Francis Fukhyama for a lecture and talk at the university which is scheduled for May 31.

This will be first public rally by Mr. Gandhi in the U.S. In September 2014, just months after he was elected for the first time, Prime Minister Modi had addressed a public meeting at the same venue. Congress leaders claim that it is only a coincidence that the rally comes ahead of Mr. Modi’s first ever state visit to the U.S., after taking over as Prime Minister.

Mr. Gandhi is also scheduled to hold interactions with the Indian American community, industry representatives and the student community. He will also address a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

“Mr. Gandhi was headed to U.S. for the talk at Stanford but once the word got out about the event, many other organisations and think tanks approached seeking time. People want to hear about his experiences during Bharat Jodo Yatra, which in many ways was a unique event in contemporary politics. They also want to talk to him about the reasons for his disqualification, which again is unprecedented in a democratic country,” a senior Congress leader said.

Mr. Gandhi will also be meeting Hollywood fraternity, especially those of Indian origin. He has invitations from several media groups to participate in chat shows but so far, as per sources, nothing has been finalised.

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‘Congress won for only 1 reason’: In Rahul Gandhi’s speech, all opposition leaders mentioned

As Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed at the swearing-in event of the new Karnataka government on Saturday, he said the Congress won in Karnataka for only one reason and that is the party’s decision to stand by the poor, the weak, the backward and the Dalit. “A lot has been written in the media analysing why the Congress won this election. There are many analyses and theories. But there is only one reason. The Congress fought for the cause of the poor, the Weak, the backward and the Dalit people. We only had truth and the strength of the poor people. On the other hand, the BJP had the rich, the police and money. But Karnataka’s people defeated all these and their corruption and hatred,” Rahul Gandhi said.

Congratulating the people of Karnataka, Rahul Gandhi said he is aware of the distress that the people suffered in the last five years. “Like we said during the Bharat Jodo Yatra that love will bloom in Karnataka ending, it has happened now,” Rahul Gandhi said.

As Siddaramaiah took the oath as the chief minister and DK Shivakumat as the deputy chief minister, Rahul Gandhi recounted the five promises given by the party before the election. “I told you we don’t make false promises. The first Cabinet meeting will take place in an hour or two. All these five promises will be passed. We walk the talk. The government is committed to the welfare of the middle-class. We will give you a clean, corruption-free government,” Rahul Gandhi said.


The swearing-in ceremony presented a picture of opposition unity ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election as NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, Kamal Haasan, Bihar deputy chief minisyet Tejashwi Yadav, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury were present. As Rahul Gandhi began his speech, he mentioned all the opposition leaders present at the ceremony sending a message of opposition unity. The AAP, however, was not invited and so were K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRC and Naveen Patnaik’s BJD.



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This election is about the idea of India: Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda, the Indian Overseas Congress (IOC) chairman, says development is about ideas at the right time. “Sometimes, people who plant the seeds don’t get to see the fruits,” he says. The technocrat-policy maker who steered India’s big shift to seeds don’t get to see the fruits,” he says. The technocrat-policy maker who steered India’s big shift to telecommunications and technology in the 1980s, says modern India and its success stories including Bengaluru were visualized by far-sighted leaders from another time.
Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/election/karnataka/this-election-is-about-the-idea-of-india-sam-pitroda-1214774.html

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The Congress has launched a platform to recruit people from across the country irrespective of age, gender, class, creed or caste. The nationwide campaign aims to recruit five lakh “social media warriors” to challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the digital space. The Party recognises that it is time for like-minded individuals in the country to come together and defend the idea of India. As a society, we must step up, unite and fight for our democratic, secular and just Republic of India. This huge recruitment drive will encompass appointments in all stages – from the state to the national level.

On the new social media recruitment drive, Congress leader Shri Rahul Gandhi strongly encouraged the youth of India to join the Congress party’s “army of truth” to fight the trolls paid by the ruling party on digital platforms. In a video message on Twitter, Rahul Gandhi said, “The backbone of the attack on this nation is a troll army, thousands of people who spread hatred, anger and are paid to do so.” He added that the paid troll army is spreading hatred and anger in India and the time has come to counter that. “As a young person, you could see what is going on… In your schools, universities and colleges you can see the oppression. You can see the attack on the idea of India. Look outside Delhi, you can see what is happening to the farmers. The backbone of this war on the nation is a troll army… We also need warriors to defend liberal values, to defend the ideas of compassion, peace, harmony and affection,” Rahul Gandhi said.

“This is an army of truth. This is an army that will defend the idea of India. We are building this platform for you. To give you tools to fight this battle and win,” he further explained.

Handles of the Congress Social Media have been one of the loudest voices against the tyrannical rule of the Modi regime. It has raised the people’s voice on various issues – farmers, migrant workers, women’s safety, student’s education, the dismal state of our economy and the rising unemployment, our Armed Forces and more. Handles have countered the Modi government’s lies and hateful propaganda and have shown the public the truth.

The Congress seeks to build on this trajectory and continue this work by inviting more people to join in this mission to save India from hate and lies. This recruitment drive will take place in every state of the country and is open to anyone who wants to be a part of this mission. One can join through the website – (www.incsmw.in) or (www.incsmwarriors.com), call on the toll-free number 1800 1200 00044 or by WhatsApp on 7574000525.

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Book Excerpt: Sam Pitroda, Technology and Three Near-Death Experiences

One morning, I received a call from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi: he wanted me to meet with the president of Vietnam, who was then on a visit to Delhi. That same afternoon, I spent an hour with him discussing telecom, technology missions and India’s software industry.

After carefully listening to me through a translator, he told me that he would be sending General Giap to spend some time with me in Delhi. While studying in America during the Vietnam War, I had often heard of General Giap: he was one of those rare generals who, in Vietnam, had fought against both the French and later against the Americans. He was the most prominent military commander during the Vietnam War, other than Ho Chi Minh, and was responsible for leadership and operations until the war ended. He died in October 2013 at the age of 102.

In Delhi, General Giap and I spent a full day at C-DOT, talking about our indigenous design and manufacturing efforts, the role of information technology, and the technology benefits for the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. He listened carefully, took notes, asked questions and was keen to learn from the Indian experience. After his visit, C-DOT started exporting rural exchanges to Vietnam to improve their village communication. Similarly, I hosted General Electric (GE) chairman Jack Welch during his first-ever official visit to India and convinced him to buy Indian software talent. He was generous enough to send a team of GE experts that ultimately resulted in our first $10 million order for software services. This marketing approach resulted in orders from IBM, Texas Instruments, Motorola and others to kick-start the Indian software export business. Rajiv Gandhi and I also convinced Gorbachev at the prime minister’s house in Delhi to buy Indian consumer goods, computer hardware and software.

We worked with the Soviet Union to establish a massive Indian science and technology exhibition in Moscow, Leningrad and Tashkent. On the one hand, we promoted our technology, and on the other, we resisted offers from multinationals like Siemens, GEC and Ericsson to import equipment to build the Indian network. I opposed large loans from the World Bank for telecom equipment import. On one occasion, the president of the World Bank visited Delhi to have lunch with us and persuade us to reconsider. It was clear that we would avail of loans only to buy what we need, not for what the Bank wanted to sell. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi lost the elections, and the new government in power got after me with a sense of revenge, raising allegations, abuses, threats and false corruption charges. They knew well that I took only a 1-rupee salary (then just 10 cents in the US) per year for almost ten years.

In the process, I had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass at a hospital in Delhi. Young C-DOT associates, the Indian public and the media came to my rescue and convinced the government to change the minister who was after me and set things right. After that, the government announced a new national election. I worked closely with Rajiv Gandhi as part of his team to help ensure victory. On 21 May 1991, at 10 p.m., I received a call from a friend informing me that Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated by a suicide bomber during his campaign visit in southern India. I was shocked and shaken. All my dreams for India disappeared in a moment. The news broke my heart. I strongly felt that India would take a long time to recover from this loss. I had spent all the money I had had managing my family in India and the US. I was broke. I had two children ready to go to college.

Finally, I decided to come back to the US to start earning again. Unfortunately, before taking my assignment with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, I had given up my US nationality in 1987. I came back to the US on a tourist visa, but I was not allowed to work. Fortunately, I owned a US patent issued in 1975 for the I-electronic diary. I realized that several multinational corporations (MNCs) were manufacturing and marketing my invention. I filed a case in the Cook County court against Casio, Toshiba, Sharp, HP, Texas Instruments and RadioShack and settled for a hefty cash amount, which enabled me to restart my life. It was strange that I had to use a tourist visa to come back to my own country. I have always felt that I belong to at least two countries—my birthplace, India, that gave me my roots, and my adopted nation, the US, which gave me my tools and my understanding of technology. I am equally committed to both countries. I do not have to choose sides. I can be in both countries at the same time. I admire the good and reject the bad in each of them. Both are democratic countries with freedom, flexibility, diversity and loving people. After a while, I applied for a green card in the US and focused on building an electronic manufacturing company in Wisconsin. However, that did not challenge me enough. I wanted to do something for the telecom industry in emerging markets and use my Indian experience to benefit Asia, Africa and Latin America. That vision led me to Worldtel in London. In 1995, nearly four out of every five people in the world lacked the most basic telephone services. To help privatize telecom and get the needed investments in emerging markets, the International Telecom Union (ITU), a part of the UN organization, decided to launch Worldtel. This organization functioned as an investment bank/fund to develop and support privately funded telecom projects in nations where the need was most urgent. ‘Worldtel’s mission was to break the vicious circle that exists in developing countries,’ the ITU launch announcement stated.

Sound telecommunication capacity and capability were needed to stimulate economic growth. However, dysfunctional telecommunications deterred private investment. This was a Catch-22 situation that we hoped to cut through by Worldtel’s initiative. I was named Worldtel’s chairman in 1995. I thought we had the potential to make a significant impact on communications in the Third World. The objective of Worldtel was to focus exclusively on telecommunications and information technology, and provide direct equity investment raised from private financial investors for implementing projects that would improve telecom infrastructure in developing countries. In the process, Worldtel improved operating skills and provided management support to help enhance productivity and efficiency. Worldtel investors were AIG, GE, Intel, NatWest and others.

I went to China for the first time after President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1981, as part of a delegation of around twenty telecom experts. I spent two weeks meeting telecom experts in Beijing, Nanking and Shanghai. We also went to tourist attractions, including the Great Wall. In those days, all we could see were bicycles, Chairman Mao’s uniform, empty roads and people staring at white foreigners. Telecom was mainly electromechanical and hardly available. After that, I worked with local government organizations to explore Tianjin’s digital switching operations: however, this never materialized. Now China is, of course, a different country altogether. While working at Worldtel, I founded a US company in 1998 to design and develop a mobile wallet. Those were the early days of the mobile wallet concept. I applied for close to fifty patents on this idea and set up design and business development teams in Chicago, Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Baroda, Pune and Vienna. Later in 2013, I sold the company to Mastercard. When I was working on the mobile wallet company, I found I had contracted cancer, requiring major surgery.

Five years after that, I would need another quadruple bypass. I was concerned, but I survived the second open-heart surgery. Three near-death experiences—two quadruple heart bypasses and one from cancer—have moulded my views on what is essential in life and what is not.

Excerpted and published with the permission from Penguin Random House

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Job Destruction

Basic management theory says that only when you measure something can you look to fix something. Which is why every organisation spends a non-trivial amount of time and resources towards data collection. Governments are no exception. The census, job surveys, NSSO are all efforts to that end. The Modi government has simply given up on releasing employment figures because it truly believes that it can pretend we don’t have a problem as long as they do not measure it. While the Congress-led UPA II government created 18.8 lakh jobs in its first 2 years, the chest-thumping Modi Sarkar has only managed to create 7.9 lakh jobs in its first three years, a mere fraction of the 2 crore jobs per year the Prime Minister promised in the run up to the 2014 General Elections.

The opportunity cost for Mr. Modi’s unnatural preoccupation with securing international business deals for his friends comes in the form of a 24.4% decline in micro enterprises under his Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP).

Joblessness is becoming an epidemic. Out of a whopping 30,000 new job seekers every day, only 500 can realistically expect to get a job. Not all of them can weather two more years of the same inattentiveness to job creation as out of the 12 million new job seekers every year, only 1.2 million have a tertiary education. The impact of ever-shrinking employment opportunities is falling disproportionately on women as 1% fewer of the female population of the country were employed a year into the BJP government than before it came to power, debunking Modi’s claim that his is a pro-woman government.

The Modi Sarkar will only begin to empathise with the plight of India’s 54.4 crore unemployed people if voters no longer allow them to rest on the arrogant assumption that they need not do anything to continue to warm their chairs for the remainder of their term. India can only stem the alarming rate at which our jobs are being destroyed by ending the job security of Mr Modi & his out-of-touch Ministers.

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Neighbourhood Lost?

The BJP Manifesto for the 2014 General Elections stated that the party “believes that political stability, progress, and peace in the region are essential for South Asia’s growth and development.”

At the time of the Prime Minister’s swearing-in, 8 Heads of States were present to see India transition from one government to another. It was a bold statement of intent from the Prime Minister showing to the world that for India, its South Asian neighbours mattered. This was later enshrined in a hollow ‘Neighbourhood First’ doctrine, a part of a series of flashy but often conflicting foreign policy ambitions.

Looking back at the last three years, India’s foreign policy has achieved little in terms of strategic gains. The “Neighbourhood First” policy has degenerated into a “Neighbourhood Lost” policy wherein India has become the isolated and generally distrusted next-door neighbour. There are major grievances against New Delhi that are commonly shared among many South Asian nations today. Numerous serious allegations have been raised regarding India’s attempt to bully its smaller neighbours and interfere in their local politics.

Let’s start with Nepal, which adopted a new constitution in September 2015. In the aftermath, protests by Madhesi protesters blocked the supply of essential supplies to Nepal. India was accused by the neighbour of putting in place an undeclared blockade. Kathmandu even complained to the UN, prompting a response from the Secretary-General on “Nepal’s right of free transit as a landlocked nation as well as for humanitarian reasons.” India was also accused of trying to topple the K.P. Oli government as a result of which the long-held perception of India as a friendly ally has taken a major hit in Nepal. Furthermore, there are allegations that India interfered in Sri Lanka’s elections in 2015. The recall of R&AW’s Colombo Station Chief gave rise to further speculations. Despite the change in government, Sri Lanka is no closer to India, recently declaring itself “neither pro-India nor pro-China.” However, both Nepal and Sri Lanka have subsequently made overtures courting China.

Our relationship with Bangladesh, a country that India shares a historically rich and prosperous relationship with, is also seeing signs of stress. As the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar escalates, opposing takes on the stateless Muslim Rohingya refugees has put the onus of responsibility on an already resource-constrained Bangladesh. As they work towards providing a solution to this humanitarian crisis, India has washed its hands off the affair and taken the side of the Myanmarese government. The Modi-led government has also stated its intention to forcibly deport the Rohingya already taking shelter in India; this, despite multiple pleas from Indian politicians asking the government to respect the principles of asylum and India’s millennial humanitarian traditions. The goodwill with this neighbour, the result of a successful ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015—a by-product of the Land Boundary Protocol in 2011 (a UPA-era win)—can now be seen to be slowly eroding.

Even in Afghanistan and the Maldives, India’s diplomatic relations with the two countries have reached an impasse. When Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan visited India during the first year of this NDA government, no progress was made on the India-Afghanistan Strategic Agreement, nor were any significant bilateral agreements signed between the two countries during the visit.

India’s Russian ties are also beginning to fray. The recent fighter aircraft deals with France and other military hardware purchases from the USA have resulted in sidelining India’s usual defence partner, the resultant diplomatic faux-pas could have been avoided had there been better guidance from the top. This has majorly strained Indo-Russian relations, resulting in Russia deepening its military ties with Pakistan instead. At the 2016 BRICS summit in Goa, India’s demand to name two Pakistan-based terror groups as perpetrators of anti-India terrorism did not find backing from Russia, a clear sign of the possible break-up.

Coming to China, though the recent Doklam stand-off ended without incident, the terms of the de-escalation remain hazy. Follow-up reports after the withdrawal indicate that there were more Chinese troops on the plateau than ever before. It is clear that India’s handling of the Chinese dragon has been less than adequate under Modi.

As is clear, for all the hoo-ha around this government’s approach on the international stage, very little of either substance or success has been witnessed. Once you separate the rice from the chaff, one is left with a picture that illustrates a critical breakdown in foreign relations, particularly in parts of the world where it matters most.

All in all, the decline in relations between India and its sub-continental neighbours under the current government is best summed up in the words of one seasoned commentator, “In its over-enthusiasm to control small neighbours, the BJP-led government has only made India’s relations with them worse than ever before. When will the BJP understand that muscular tactics cannot replace mature and deft diplomacy?”

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