The All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday declared that he did not believe in the caste system and felt that the only difference between the poor and the rich in the country is one of opportunities.

I don't consider whether a person is a Dalit or not. I approach him as a human being. I am only trying to understand more about the people of the country, the poor and the handicapped, he said in reply to a question at a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram. Mr. Gandhi pounced on a question related to his campaign among the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh to express his views on the issue, stating that he usually stayed with families without considering whether they belonged to the Dalit community. He also set the tone for his three-venue interactive session with college students in three cities in Kerala.

There is nothing such a weaker community, but only poor people who lack the opportunity even while having the capability and understanding. As a far as I am concerned, I am not trying to reach out to the poor. As a young politician not exposed to this, it is very important that I spend as much time with the poor people and understand them, he said.

He said the biggest problem was that the various welfare measures being implemented by the Government with good intention is not reaching the people.

When asked about the controversy about Congress leaders in UP who carried their own mattresses and cooked their food during the Gandhi Jayanthi campaign among the Dalits, Mr. Gandhi, who insisted that he be addressed by his first name, said that the question should be put to the leaders concerned.

In reply to a question on the naxalite menace in Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Mr. Gandhi said the problem in these States was that the Government was not reaching out to the population. The Government needs to get development to the people. No one would join the naxalites if the people are involved in the development process, he said.

When asked for his formula to combat naxalism, Mr. Gandhi said that there were enough experts in Government of India to work on this. He was also candid about his views on whether a public holiday should be observed on Gandhi Jayanthi. I don't want to be opinionated on every subject. I have my views on various subjects, but I am perfectly happy with the Government of India decision on this.

Mr. Gandhi also gave an insight into his attempts to revive the Youth Congress and the National Students Union (NSU) as a major force and to evolve an open system that would attract youngsters to politics, with a promotion mechanism within the system based on democratic norms. The Youth Congress and the NSU is going to develop the further leadership. The youth would work for the Congress, under the Congress as per the direction of senior leaders. Youngsters who have the capability would be provided enough space to function, he said.

Mr. Gandhi later addressed an interactive session at the Mar Ivanios College, in the State capital. He is scheduled to address two other such sessions in Kochi and Kozhikode later in the afternoon.