Taking a dig at UPA government's ambitious food security programme, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has said that the Centre was under the impression that merely bringing in the Bill would lead to food reaching the needy.
"The government in Delhi thinks that just by bringing in the Food Security Bill, there will be food on your plate," Bharatiya Janata Party's election campaign chief told students of Pune's FergussonCollege on Sunday.
Modi said, "There is a sense of despondency in the country today" and stressed that there was a need to modernise India without westernising it.
"There is a need to nurture talent for nation building," Modi said, peppering his address with achievements made by the Gujarat government in education and other sectors.
Modi, who once again found himself in the eye of a storm over his recent "puppy" remarks in an interview to a news agency, interacted with students of FergussonCollege where he had gone to inaugurate an amphitheatre.
Underlining that education plays a crucial role in a nation's development, Modi said, "If we want to have a good education system, we should create good teachers, which has not been a priority."
Stating that "there is a big difference between 'others' and us", Modi said, "Other people are interested in power. We give priority to empowerment. They want power, we want to empower every citizen of this country."
"I don't want to make any political statements here, but have the expectations from the system been fulfilled?" Modi asked.
"After Independence, had we opted for modern education, we could have done a lot in these 60 years," he said.
There is an atmosphere of "nirasha" (despondency) in the country today "(but) I don't endorse this view," Modi said. "It is essential that we get out of this view," he stressed.
"Over 65 per cent of our population is below 35 years of age. This tremendous youth power can be of use if there is someone to do the job," he said.
Contrasting the Indian and US education systems, Modi said that in the US system, ways are found to nurture a person's creativity.
Modi also spoke of the old gurukul system in India and how people from all over the world came to study at Indian education hubs like Nalanda.
"Earlier, education was a man-making mission. Now, it has become a money making mission. Was this our tradition?" he asked.
"Even when our country was in slavery, our great leaders thought of the education system. Could we not do any thing after Independence?" he said.
"We want modernisation, not westernisation," he said.
Modi cited the example of South Korea and lauded the strides made by that country.
"South Korea also gained independence at the same time. It is the size of Gujarat. Now, in this short span, it is among the developed nations. Such a small country hosts Olympics. Through sports, it has established a position in the world," he said.
"But in this country of 120 crore people, we auctioned the country in the Commonwealth Games. The CWG scam tarnished the image of the country. Is this the direction where we want to take the country?" he asked.
"When the government brings down the prestige of the country, then it becomes a matter of concern," he said.
"During Olympics, people often say that despite its huge size, we don't get medals. Have we linked sports with our education system," he said.
"If newly-recruited army jawans are given proper training, I am sure they will bring 5 to 10 medals," Modi said.
Modi dwelt on the strides made by China, which he said, in the 70s, decided to focus on human development.
"In 10 years from 2000, China, which did not have even a single university among the top varsities in the world, now has over 30 whereas India, which had two, now has only one. Why did this happen?" he asked.
"How did China do it? It spent almost 20 per cent of its GDP on education. Our government promised to spend 7 per cent but actually spent just 4 per cent," Modi said.
On the development in Gujarat, Modi said, "The change which we could not have in 50 years, we have brought in the last 10 years." Almost 45 per cent of the medicines made in India are produced by pharma companies in Gujarat, he said.
"The Indian government says that if there is one state where unemployment is low, it is Gujarat," he said.
"We have to emphasise on research which should not be only for displaying a certificate in the drawing room of homes but for nation building," he said.
"If a country does not give emphasis on research, there is stagnancy. Continuous innovation is a sign of life. Qualitative research is the need of the hour," he said.
"What is the state of the country today? There is no friend among our neighbours," he said.
There is a big vacuum in top officers' posts in armed forces, Modi said. He suggested training youngsters from eighth standard onwards to overcome the shortage of officers in armed forces.
Priority should be accorded to skill development, Modi said.
Modi said it was a thrilling experience to speak at the same hall where Veer Savarkar delivered his speeches.
"I got extreme vibrations about serving the country in this hall," he said.
Reaching out to the youths in the audience, Modi said, "I am very active on social media. I use Twitter and Facebook to connect with the new generation."
Talking about the potential of the country's youth, he said, "India's youngsters don't just wear jeans... they think, they have fire in their belly. They have dreams and power.
"Despite difficulties, they have the zeal to do something. The future of a country where the youth are committed to doing something can never be dark," Modi said.
The BJP leader later interacted with students, who had thronged the venue in large numbers.