‘People from lower castes have been facing discrimination for ages’

In a bid to attract the attention of the youth ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi here on Saturday interacted with a cross-section of students, flanked by two young faces of the party — actor-turned-politician Ramya and Minister of State for Agriculture Krishna Byre Gowda.

Accompanied by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani, Mr. Gandhi sought to convince students that caste-based reservation in education and employment was required to bring the downtrodden into the mainstream.

“Perhaps you have not been to villages outside the city. The fact is that people from lower castes have been facing discrimination for ages. We cannot say we do not like a particular religion or caste. Regardless of which community the person belongs to we have to make him feel he is part of the system,” he said.

Interspersing the one-hour-45-minute programme with views of students from Sriperumbudur, Pune, Kolkata, Allahabad, Mohali, Guwahati, and New Delhi through video conferencing, the Congress vice-president advised the students not to let politicians get away with just making policies. “You must force them to think and give solutions to your problems,” he said.

When several students wanted to know why skilled talent from the country was attracted to foreign shores, Mr. Gandhi said: “The answer is not to stop people from going abroad but to give them opportunities that will make them stay in the country. This country has tremendous energy and our ability to think and solve problems is the best. But our systems [political and education] are bad and it is important to change them.”

“He listened to all our questions and answered most of them although he did not give specific replies,” said Shreoshee Mukherjee from Mount Carmel College.

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