In a sharp attack on the “serious menace” of illegal mining, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said it had “profound political, economic and social implications” in States affected by tribal deprivation and left-wing extremism.
Only “fundamental innovations in the manner in which our mineral resources are exploited and our forests are managed” could help in dealing with the Naxalite challenge, she said. Protecting the rights of tribals and ensuring their livelihood, she said, was central to ending “their exploitation and sense of alienation.”
Addressing a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) for the first time in this session, Ms. Gandhi covered issues ranging from illegal mining, the volatile situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the controversial Commonwealth Games to the party's strategy for the coming Bihar Assembly elections.
Controlling price rise remained “our top priority,” she said, while defending the hike in the prices of petroleum products.“Sometimes, there is simply no option as in the case of the petroleum products some weeks ago.”
The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his Cabinet colleagues and party members from both Houses.
Pointing to the urgent need to reach out to the people of Kashmir, and referring to the Prime Minister's “blueprint for reconciliation and reconstruction,” Ms. Gandhi said, “Dialogue and mutual understanding are the key to ending the cycle of violence and tragic killings.”
Referring to a whole generation that has grown up “under the shadow of brutality and conflict,” she said “anger and pain” that was manifesting itself, especially among the young, “needs to be addressed. They are our very own and their suffering is ours.”
Simultaneously, she acknowledged that the security forces had a difficult task to discharge.
While stating that the prestige of the nation was involved in the holding of a successful Commonwealth Games, she said that as soon as the Games were over, she expected the government to examine the malpractice allegations and “spare no one found to be involved in them.”
On the Congress strategy for the Bihar polls due in October-November this year, Ms. Gandhi said Congressmen needed to communicate to the people there that the State had never received as much financial assistance from the Centre for development as it was doing now, and that theirs was the only party to have an “all-inclusive development agenda.”
“In many States, including Bihar, schemes funded by the Central government are appropriated by the State governments which then claim credit that justifiably belongs to the Centre,” she said.
Admitting that successive governments had failed to deal with the Bhopal gas tragedy effectively, she said systems “that will ensure than no Bhopal-type man-made catastrophe repeats itself,” need to be put in place.
Condoling the loss of lives and devastation caused by the flash floods in Leh, Ms. Gandhi expressed confidence that the government would take all the necessary steps to address the needs of the people there, particularly shelter, with winter not too far away.