“While they lack access to basic facilities, they also face discrimination”

The marginalisation of the poor and socially backward on the basis of gender, caste and religion remains a big issue in India, hampering the country’s growth, Congress president and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said here on Sunday.

Addressing a packed hall after inaugurating the research and training complex of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies at Neyyar, near here, she said circumstances did not allow the marginalised to contribute to society. “While they lack access to basic facilities, they also face discrimination.”

The social welfare schemes launched by the UPA government had lifted millions out of poverty over the past few years, she said, but “we are only too aware that we need to do much more.”

She said the country needed experts who would devise solutions to empower the marginalised, give them basic facilities and opportunities to be contributing members of society. “We need policymakers of the next generation who can identify and understand the particular problems of today and the opportunities of tomorrow and help frame policies which can bring an effective and long-term change.”

She expressed the hope that the institute, as an upcoming think tank, would work towards creating new research opportunities and enhancing the quality of research.

“As India develops, it faces new challenges as yet unseen and unprecedented in human history. Natural disasters, environmental issues and development concerns have begun to encircle us simultaneously. This requires institutions like this [Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies] to design ever-evolving curriculum to keep abreast of these challenges.”

Ms. Gandhi said the UPA and the United Democratic Front were committed to developing Kerala based on the principles of inclusiveness and secularism.

In his presidential address, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala said the UDF would work together to bag the maximum number of seats in Kerala in the Lok Sabha elections and challenge the communal and divisive forces.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy; Union Ministers Vayalar Ravi, K.C. Venugopal, Shashi Tharoor, Kodikkunil Suresh and Mullappally Ramachandran; Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien; Speaker G. Karthikeyan, AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik; and director of the institute Fidur Mohammed were present.

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