Congress titans flag unemployment, social disharmony as Kerala's new challenges

Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh

Thiruvananthapuram: Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Tuesday criticised the BJP government for its “ill-considered demonetisation decision” in 2016 for the rising unemployment rate in India.

He also observed that in Kerala and many other states, public finances were in disarray with states having to resort to excessive borrowing, which creates an intolerable burden on future budgets.

"Federalism and regular consultation with states, which was the cornerstone of India's economic and political philosophy as enshrined in the Constitution, no longer finds favour with the present Central government," he said.

Singh said while Kerala's social standards are high, there are other sectors that need strong attention in the future.

"There are many roadblocks ahead that the state has to overcome. The global downturn of the last two or three years, aggravated by the pandemic, has made the global interface of Kerala more fragile.

"While the increased use of digital modes of work may keep the IT sector afloat, tourism has been hit badly and the rate at which the pandemic is galloping in Kerala poses challenges for this industry", Singh said.

The former PM also hailed the decision of the leadership of Kerala's Congress-led UDF to incorporate "radical ideas" like "NYAY" in its Assembly election manifesto, saying the scheme outlined in the Congress manifesto of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, will provide direct benefit transfer to the poorest among us.

He said this, together with other measures such as no- bill health care through more medical establishments and other measures to strengthen the social infrastructure will provide a framework for inclusive development, focused on the needs of the underprivileged.

According to Singh, while providing support to the poor, such schemes will also kickstart the economy as demand will be stimulated, leading to more production particularly in the small and micro sector, in agriculture and in the unorganised sector, creating more employment opportunities and bringing the economy rapidly back to normalcy after the prolonged economic slowdown at the national level.

He also criticised the central government for not holding regular consultations with the states. Singh was speaking at a development summit organized by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who attended the event virtually, pointed out that Kerala's social harmony and amity have come under stress and strain in recent years.

"Kerala has been a lesson to other parts of the country and indeed the world on how to preserve and promote social harmony and amity. This has come under stress and strain and future development strategy must have, as one of its basic objectives, the strengthening of the bonds of brotherhood (and sisterhood) that have been the hallmarks of Kerala's wonderfully diverse society," Gandhi said.

Referring to the much talked about Kerala Model of Development, Gandhi said today the state faces new, unprecedented challenges and it has been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic and called for fresh thinking on economic growth and social security in the southern state.

"It's clearly time for fresh thinking on economic growth that will revive investments, create productive jobs, protect the environment, build resilience to climate change, mitigate natural disasters, enhance social security for organized and unorganized labour and improve, the well-being of farmers and their families", she said in the message read out in the summit.

(With inputs from PTI)

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