Let's give him some wiggle room...
Ajay Singh | August 7, 2013
In Indian ethos, poverty is often philosophised. This is best summed up by a Hindi proverb “Mann changa toh kathauti mein Ganga (if you are pure of heart, the sacred river Ganga flows in your bucket!)”. This was philosophical commiseration for those devotees who cannot undertake the pilgrimage to Varanasi for whatever reasons.
One does not know if Rahul Gandhi was trying to draw from this Indian ethos and spiritual heritage when he talked about poverty being a “state of mind”. But a careful scrutiny of his statement makes it clear that he was only making a point about empowering the marginalized sections of society and that he did not say anything that should have caused the drummed up outrage of his political opponents.
In a gathering of academics in the GB Pant Institute of Social Science in Allahabad, is Rahul not allowed the luxury of making a rhetorical point on poverty? He was not even speaking at a public meeting. Is he not allowed to speak from the heart about the poverty on which he has developed his own narrative? In Rahul's view, marginalized sections of society need to acquire a degree of self-confidence to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty. It was his version of the "mann changa toh kathauti mein Ganga" proverb. So what was the crime?
On the face of it, whatever Gandhi said in his exposition was nothing but an innocuous expression of his assessment of Indian society. Nowhere did he wish away the reality of poverty. He neither blamed the poor for remaining poor nor extolled the virtue of launching social welfare schemes aimed at eradicating poverty. Far from it, he appealed to the poor to realise their potential by inculcating a sense of self-confidence to claim their stake in the system.
According to professor Badri Narayan, a Dalit scholar and organiser of the meeting with Rahul, the speech invoked the theme of a cultural heritage which does not judge an individual in materialistic terms. At the same time, he emphasized that the social programmes and schemes launched by the government to eradicate poverty were only small steps towards eliminating the curse of poverty. The need of the hour was for the poor to develop self-confidence.
Let's cut him some slack, let's give him some wiggle room.
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