It was not the story of the ‘shining India' but the images of its appalling poverty that former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar unveiled before budding managers at the Rajagiri Business School here on Saturday.

“The tragedy is that while India is prospering, Indians are not. In this era of accelerated economic growth, we have ended up as an unequal country,” he said.

Mr. Aiyar was on the campus in Kakkanad to deliver the “Rajagiri - In pursuit of excellence” lecture on ‘Youth and Nation Development.'

GDP and poverty

Referring to the Planning Commission's observation that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had averaged over eight per cent annually for the last five years, Mr. Aiyar reminded the audience that the rate of poverty alleviation in the country had averaged under 0.8 per cent per annum over the last 11 years.

Making it clear that business schools would not teach students about the real India in villages and the needs of its rural population, Mr. Aiyar told the youngsters that “you will learn nothing about India, if you are unable to experience the lives of the poor and understand their needs.”

Suggesting that the youth should get into the development process, Mr. Aiyar urged them to devote some part of their lives to understand the problems faced by people in their region.

“Learn what brings water to a tap in your area. Why the school teacher is not coming to teach in the local school? Ask whether the doctor is coming to the primary health centre to take care of the people? Or is he asking the villagers to come to his clinic in the town to charge them more? You will gain confidence learning about such issues in your panchayat,” he said.

Noting that it was the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's genius that helped in shaping the Panchayati Raj institutions, Mr. Aiyar said that Mr. Gandhi had then told him that young people would get into the local bodies and address various issues in their area. “Rajiv had also told me that most of those who get elected would discover that all governments are about making choices. You cannot have a school and a primary health centre at the same time. You have to choose. And it is for the village to decide what its priorities are,” he said.

More In: KERALA | NATIONAL