Rahul Gandhi visits site of father Rajiv’s last public meeting

In drought-prone Marathwada, Rahul Gandhi hears woes of cooperative sector, unorganised workers

November 10, 2022 07:12 am | Updated 07:12 am IST - NAIGAON/KRISHNOOR

It was the same village in the drought-hit Nanded district in the Marathwada region where former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi addressed a mammoth public meeting a day before his assassination. More than three decades later, his son and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited Narsi and paid floral tribute to his father’s portrait while he was passing through the village during his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra on Wednesday.

The rank and file of the Congress party recalled how Rajiv Gandhi had visited the village and addressed his last public meeting in Maharashtra.

“It was indeed a great public meeting. There was no space even to move our legs. More than 30 years after he met with a tragic end, his son came to our village,” recalled a villager who was struggling to catch a glimpse of the Wayanad MP.

Mr. Gandhi resumed his march from Shankar Nagar in Biloli mandal as the yatra entered its 63rd day, and the third day of its two week-long Maharashtra leg. He halted at some places en route and interacted with villagers who had gathered to greet him. The yatra halted at Naigaon at 10 a.m. as part of a morning break and resumed at 4 p.m. Mr. Gandhi walked a total of 24 kilometres, concluding the day at Vajirgaon Phata.

Addressing a gathering at Krishnoor in the evening, he focussed on gender equality and education, and also targeted the Narendra Modi-led NDA government over unemployment, hate politics, demonetisation, and the Agnipath scheme.

Noting that big-ticket projects were moved from Maharashtra to neighbouring Gujarat ahead of the Assembly elections, Mr. Gandhi said, “The Airbus project took off from Maharashtra to Gujarat in the same way as airline flights take off from the runways.” No one is scared of Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation, he added.

He interacted with Koli community leaders who came from Mumbai to discuss issues such as encroachment and Coastal Regulation Zone violations.

Cooperatives’ demands

Mr. Gandhi also met members of the cooperative societies for sugar, milk, banking, and textile mills, and a delegation of unorganised sector workers during the afternoon break. Among the major issues raised were the lack of support to the cooperatives from the government, the increase in cybercrime after demonetisation, and a ‘dysfunctional’ ethanol policy that needs amendment to support sugarcane, the most profitable crop for farmers.

They also demanded a more robust export policy and a simplified tax framework. The delegates feared that the new cooperatives policy, which enables the Central government to enter the rural as well as urban sector of cooperatives, is bound to sabotage the sector which is essentially decentralised and driven by the State and the districts. They also indicated that a more inclusive policy would encourage youngsters to consider farming as a career.

The representatives of the unorganised sector raised the issues of equal wages for equal work, minimum wages, and the ‘inability’ of the government to give minimum wages.

Minimum income

Responding to the concerns, the Congress leader highlighted the NYAY scheme announced earlier by the UPA Government in 2019 that guarantees minimum annual income for every poor family of ₹72,000. He also laid special emphasis on the Mathadi Act.

Mr. Gandhi alleged that demonetisation was not only a mistake but also part of the BJP’s strategy to confine power and money to the pockets of a few, comparing it to the Goods and Services Tax that he claimed was imposed upon the country because the BJP wanted to finish the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. The strategy of the BJP gives rise to poverty, unemployment, inflation and hinders the development of the nation, he added.

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