Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's interaction with students of NMIMS, Mumbai
Rahul Gandhi: There is a lot that can be changed. It's pretty easy to change. All those people out there are not doing that. Now with experience I can see there is a lot that needs to be changed, there are a lot of people trying to change it. And change is not as easy as it looks, at least from where you are sitting.
Couple of things I have taken away. First thing is, when you are looking at businesses, you are looking at politics, you are looking at NGOs, anything. Everything in this world is connected with everything else. I was talking to a friend of mine and works in the airline industry. I asked him, what are the boundaries of the industry that you are working in? He said, actually we take customers from one place to another. You say you work in the airline industry. You are in aircraft industry. It has tyres, so you're in the rubber industry. It has passengers, so you are in people industry. In the aircraft they serve food, so you are in the food industry. How can you say you are working in one airline industry? You are working in a complex environment, where everything is interconnected, everything is relevant.
Whenever you look at a problem, don't make clear boundaries. When you look at me, you'll say, 'look here comes a politician.'And I'll call you students. I'll but a blanket definition over you. This hides many things. Each one of you is unique. Each one of you has ideas. It's a much more productive way to look at the world, if when I look at you I don't put any clear definitions. Definitions hide huge value. When you look at a problem, look at the definitions that you are carrying around with you and try and question them and break them.
I meet a lot of people. Many will tell me they want to change the world. It is very important that you know why you want to do something. It is the most fundamental thing. If you don't know why you are doing something, you won't get what you want from it. Sometime back, a youngster came to my office. He had been working on ambulances and getting injured people away from the accident site and to the hospital. He says that I want to make sure that not a single person dies in the streets of our cities. I said that's a very good thing. How are you doing it? He said, I have started ambulances. I am going to expand this network. I am going to move from ambulances to helicopters. If today it takes 20 min, I am going to make sure it takes 5 min. And then we discussed how he was going to do it. And we had a long discussion. As our discussion got over, I asked him, 'can I ask you a personal question?' To which he said yes. You want to save these people dying in the streets of India? So was it your father who died in an accident or was it your mother? He stopped. And he said, 'father.' He asked how did I know it, and I said, I didn't. He said, 'I had never thought of that. It never crossed my mind that the reason I got into the business of ambulances is because I suffered tremendously when my father died.' He then recounted how his father suffered an accident and was lying on the road and people were just going by. It is a very good thing that he is doing. But, it is important that he knows the reason why. When I told him this, he had this look on his face that said, 'maybe I don't want to do ambulances.' What he was looking for was to resolve the pain of losing his father. The solution was to help individuals. It's a very honourable thing, but it's important that he knows why he is doing it. It's fundamental.
Many times we go into things and we want to help the world. We want to change the world. We haven't gone into details why we want to do that. I think that is very important. You live in the 21st century. Facebook, Twitter, you are bombarded with information. You get up information comes to you. The thing to remember when you are leading an institution; the thing that you can control 100% is your perspective, how you look at the world. You will find that everyone will try to shape that. Someone will tell you, 'drive this car.' Drive an Audi and it will give you something. They will tell you to drink Coca Cola it'll give you something. You have to remember, no matter what you are being bombarded with the one thing you have full control is the perspective you carry. It is important that you don't forget that. If you forget that, if a wave comes this way, you go this way, if it goes that way, you go that way. So I'd say if you want to lead institutions, you want to be flexible, you want to do well, from my experience think about these things.
Don't put labels on people. Don't put labels on things. The universe does not have labels. Labels are human inventions. Steve Jobs when asked what was the most importance class he took, with regards to learning about this [iphone], he said calligraphy. Japanese calligraphy. With definitions in mind, it is ridiculous. If Steve Jobs had come and said 'I am in the computer business' he would never have built this. In fact if he had said 'I am in the telephone business' he would never have built this. 'I am in the music business' he would never have built this. His strength was that he didn't apply labels.
It works in life. I don't like that person. That definition 'I don't like' hides many things. 'I like that person' hides many things. This is a bad person. This is a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh, a lower caste, a woman. Those are the little things that hide value that you can use to build your organisation.
So control your perspective, ensure that you don't create unnecessary labels. And then know why you are doing something. Don't just go in saying that you want to change the world, the universe. What is driving you to do it? Why are you doing it? Often you will find that what's driving you is actually not outside, but inside. What's driving you is something that happened to you as a child, an incident that happened to you, something that happened with your parents, or someone you love. And be aware of these type of things. I think these three rules will help you.
I don't want to carry on for too long. You are going to ask me some questions. I am sure you want to hear about the country, the economy, Pathankot, all sorts of things. I am going to open the floor to you and weave in those answers, what I think about the outside world, what I think about India, about start-ups.
Q: India and China are both tagged as developing economies. The last 20 years has seen China grow into a dominant super power in the world, and India not so. What are your views on that?
RG: If you look at sheer power, and you look at presence in the world, in terms of economic strength, China today is more powerful and economically powerful. A while back I was in a conference, and a lady from the Chinese Prime Minister's office came up to me and asked me a question. She said 'China is very powerful. India is also growing. But, there is one thing I don't understand. Why is it that everybody sees China as a threat, and nobody sees India as a threat? People are suspicious of China and nobody is suspicious of India.' I asked, 'what do you think?' She said well because China is stronger and China is more powerful and I asked if she was sure about that. She said yes. I said I don't agree with you. China applies its force in a different way than Indian does. China's power is centralised. China grabs you and you can see the power china has. India is de-centralised. India grabs you, and you don't even know India has grabbed you. We show our power in different ways.
India's power has never been military. It was always come from the strength of our ideas; from our ability to bring the other person here and make him change his perspective or merge his perspective into our perspective. That's a very powerful thing. China has also paid a huge price for what they have achieved. People say China is growing at 11%, China has done this, China has done that. But if you go into history you will see that millions of people paid for that with their lives. In India we didn't do that. We are growing at 9%. We didn't kill millions of people. We are different. These two countries have their strengths. I am much happier to live in India, to allow free ideas to move. I am much happier to accept some of the inefficiencies that they don't accept. Because out of those inefficiencies comes innovation.... The comparison is made, but I am confident that when everything is said and done we will be ahead of the Chinese.
Q: India is primarily an agrarian economy. This year we have seen unseasonal rainfall and 12% deficient monsoon. What do you think the Government can do to help the plight of the farmers? Do you think pvt players can actually play a part in this?
RG: If you look at what is happening in India, we used to be an agrarian economy. If you look at what your grandparents, and their parents did, 95% of them would have been farmers. And we have made a slow transition from agrarian economy to now a knowledge economy. To divide agriculture, industry, technology again is a simplification. All these are interconnected.
We started NREGA. We got a huge backlash from corporates saying this is a complete waste of money. Why are we doing NREGA? Now if you look into NREGA, and what it did. You find, that the 9% growth that we are so proud of, in large measure came from the rural economy. And why did it come from the rural economy because NREGA was injecting cash into the rural economy. NREGA was building infrastructure that helped farmers. So to divide and say this is agriculture economy, this is the industrial economy, this is the start-up economy. You don't get a good grasp of the situation. Agriculture is not just a problem of the farmer. It is a problem for the business, for the industry, for the student. What you get in your cafeteria has come from a farm in Haryana, those shirts you are wearing, those have been given to you by a farmer. Whether it is agriculture or industry, these are the backbones of our country. When we were in government, we had a strategy of supporting the farmer. Two things have happened since the Green Revolution. The Indian Farm has been divided. Somebody whose father used to own a farm, now has 3 brothers. So the farms ability to maintain a family has now collapsed. International agricultural market is globalised....
This is a very deep problem. It won't be solved overnight. It is critical that India actually frees its entrepreneurs, especially small and medium entrepreneurs. Gives them access to credit, frees them from red-tape. Some states do better than others. Maharashtra has a good record. Karnataka has a good record, probably the best. In UP and Bihar, try starting a business and see what happens to you. It's also state specific. Some of my friends from UP and Bihar will know what I am talking about. Starting a business there is a completely different ball game than what it is in Maharashtra. UP is a big part of our country. 200 million people live there. You can't just say that we are going to do business in Maharashtra and Karnataka, and forget UP and forget Bihar. Some of the most enterprising people come from there. We have to use the full energy of this country.
Q: GST would be a great advantage for the country. What do you think are the road blocks for the passage of the GST in our country?
RG: The Congress bought the GST to the table. It was conceptualised and designed by us, Dr. Singh and our economic team. BJP stopped GST in Parliament for 7 years. Mr Jaitley, who now wants the GST to happen, didn't allow GST to pass for 7 years. Dr Singh had umpteen conversations with Mr. Modi, who was CM of Gujarat. And he did not allow GST. Now, there are three issues where we differ. This was our position earlier.
We don't want a GST where there is no cap on taxes. We don't want taxes that are imposed on you to fly in the sky. We want a limitation on the maximum tax that can be charged to the people of this country....
GST requires a huge infrastructure. It is not simply passing a bill in Parliament. This building of infrastructure will take a couple of years. The GST is a small part of the economy, yet everyone talks about it. It is very convenient. Why are we forgetting all other issues? What is GST got to do with toor dal?
When we were in government, our approach was let's talk to the Opposition, lets come out with a solution. And Mr. Jaitley gave an interview in England and said 'It is the strategy of the BJP to block parliament. They did that for 10 years, non-stop. They blocked wherever they could. It is not the strategy of the Congress to block the Parliament and it will never be. But, we represent people and we also have a voice among the people that we represent. And our leaders and workers tell us that the dispute resolution mechanism has to be fair. We will not be able to go to our people if suddenly tax rate sky rockets. That is the basic point. Mr. Jaitley came to see me and it was stated in the press that he had a long conversation on the GST. The reality is Mr. Jaitley came to invite me for his daughter's wedding. And the only conversation on the GST was him telling me that it is good. And I know GST is good. He doesn't have to tell me GST is good. The government doesn't believe in a conversation.
The Land Bill there was a compromise possible. They were not interested. They said, 'we aren't interested in what the Congress has to say.' There is a compromise possible on the GST, it is sitting on the table, the government is not taking it.
Q: Do you think politicians should stay from administration from cricket bodies and other sporting bodies after the DDCA scam and follow international model.
RG: 100%. Short Answer, I don't think politicians shouldn't be anywhere near the administration of cricket.
Q: You spoke about differences between India and China and that freedom of thought was one difference. With the recent spate of incidents about censorship on the rise, which is a precursor to intolerance, where do you think India is headed down? On a morbid road of thought control.
RG: The ruling dispensation, particularly the RSS has a very clear idea of what the world should look like. There is no sense of discussion. They have a vision for India, which everyone is entitled to have, which in my opinion is a rigid vision. And what experience I have, this country requires flexibility, it requires openness, it requires movement of ideas to succeed. If you look at the successes we have had. First success when Gandhi opened political system. A conversation happened that said let's get rid of these British. Out of this came our freedom movement. You can see that's the same thing when you look at the telecom revolution. Sam Pitroda was an outsider. And came and said, I have an idea and that's how a conversation started. Then we had the telecom revolution. Same with computers. Same with liberalisation. There is a contradiction in saying 'I want start-up and I will be intolerant.' Start ups require a free movement of Ideas. Intolerance curbs a free movement of ideas. If I tell you, 'sorry you are a woman and your place is in the kitchen, I am curbing your ideas and our creativity.' To me there is a connection between being intolerant and imposing a vision on this country and economic progress and start-ups. People who run start-ups by their very definition are creative people. You can't tell Steve Jobs that he can't do something, it's in his DNA. You can't build the economy on one hand and be intolerant on the other hand. You will see that you will fail in the economy.
There is a difference between our philosophy and BJP philosophy. We feel everyone in India should have an opinion. Everyone should have access to every single thing that is there on offer. For me, I see everyone as an Indian. I don't see the differences in people and don't tell people to live their life in a particular way. I would consider it arrogant. I want everyone to live the life the way they want. Same for Sikh, for Women, Muslims, Hindus and lower castes. That is the difference between BJP and us. They categorise. There is a Hindu for them. There is a Muslim for them. There is a Sikh for them. There is a Woman for them. For me there are only Indians. Everyone is allowed to do what they want. I want that movement of ideas. That is where our power is. That's how we will do better than China. You are taking away India's most valuable resource when you are intolerant and taking away free movement of ideas. You are taking away India's soul. The ability for Gandhi to get up from here and to the English Parliament in dhoti. When told that this was inappropriate, he said I don't care. This is my formal dress.
Q: Talking about education, why don't our colleges feature in the top 200? Where are we lagging?
RG: Let me ask you, who makes the rankings? The USA. If an Indian survey made those rankings, how many Indian institutions would there be in the top 200? Would there be any? Certainly if Indians made those rankings, IIT would be in the top 200. I am not concerned with rankings. They are made by the US and they have a view on what an education institution should be and they rank accordingly. Our education institutes are not any less than theirs.
There is one thing that worries me. Education is about questioning and about challenging. In many of our schools and colleges, we don't allow our students to challenge and question. That is the bigger issue. We are much more into rote learning, remember this, answer these questions and not into thinking. That's one thing. The second thing, is that our best institutions were created in the Fifties. Creating an institution is not about replicating. Every college has a DNA and a heart. That grows evolutionarily...
On National Security:
Dr Singh listened to experts, and listened to all those experts. Dr Singh did not believe that he had all the answers to all these issues. We had many meetings with experts. What do you think, how do you do this. And the end of it was, we got peace in Kashmir, they couldn't do anything in Kashmir. We used US to pressure them and to isolate them internationally and we had them in serious trouble. Now the way they are being handled is ad-hoc. I feel like going to Pakistan for a wedding. Pakistan slaps me back. Should we talk or not talk. Maybe we should, maybe we shouldn't. The problem is that the people who know about these things, and we have the best experts on counter terrorism, on diplomacy, I have worked with them, are not being consulted. They come to me. You have an attack in Pathankot. Who is dealing with the attack? The NSA deals with the attack. It's not his job. NSA's job is strategy not tactics. There are people who are masters of tactics. It's their job. If you let the people who don't know what to do, do it, you get into a problem. These things are not one offs. It has a long history. There are professionals who are dealing on this. The Government of India has to rely on them. They have to feel they are listening to us. This is my main issue with the way the government is handling these issues. It's an event based thing, it is not a strategic thing.