Congress promises rights to health, pension, housing, social security, dignity

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, March 26, 2014

Sonia Gandhi releases Congress manifesto for LS elections
The Congress today promised to the people a charter of minimum rights that it will put in place, if elected to office in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, including the Rights to Health, Pension, Homestead or Housing, Social Security, Dignity and humane working conditions and to Entrepreneurship that will protect and assist all those who seek to become entrepreneurs.
In its election manifesto released here today by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, the party pledged to implement a 15-point agenda for socio-economic and political transformation of the country.
"We will endeavour to bring around two-thirds of our population -- the skilled hands that build India - into the middle class, through a package of basic rights for all workers -- formal and informal, organized and unorganized, regular and contractual.
"Our aim will be to provide them and all low-income families with economic security and a minimum standard of living to uplift their condition," the manifesto said.
The Congress said it would ensure that the unpredictable risk of retroactive taxation is avoided and promised to invest more than 1 trillion dollars over the next decade on upgrading India's power, transport and other development infrastructure.
Among other things, the party said it was committed to creating national consensus on affirmative action for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the private sector.
The document said the new rights would supplement the other rights established under the first and second terms in office of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, includind the Right to Food, the Right to Information, the Right to Education, the Right to Employment and the rights to fight corruption (through various laws such as the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act), the Right to Identity (Aadhaar) and the Right to direct receipt of welfare benefits (Direct Benefit Transfers).
The party said it would, to support the Right to Health, increase health expenditure to 3% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provide universal and quality health care for all Indians, including free medicines.
To support the right to homestead/housing, it will ensure affordable and quality housing for all and expand the Indira Awaas Yojana and Rajiv Awaas Yojana to cover all poor rural and urban households, it said.
The manifesto promised to restore India to eight-plus growth rate within three years. The party said it would ensure India has a globally competitive business and investment-friendly environment.
It promised firm action to control inflation even in a difficult global economic scenario and a open and competive economy, open to global and domestic competition.
"Our vision is building India as the world leader in manufacturing. We will ensure a 10% growth rate in the manufacturing sector with a special emphasis on small and medium enterprises," it said.
The Congress said it would continue on the path of making India a world leader in agricultural production and agro-industry, taking advantage of its national endowments and the genius of its farmers.
"We will focus on increasing agriculture productivity and farmer incomes by increasing investments in irrigation, agricultural value chains, cold storage and warehousing," it said.
The manifesto said the party would increase the Goods and Services Tax Bills and a new Direct Tax Code Bill in Parliament and ensure they are enactd within one year.
It also promised to support more transparent, competitive and better-regulated public private partnerships for both hard and soft infrastructure development.
The Congress promised to promote a more flexible labour policy as needed for maintaining competitiveness, while moving towards international labour standards for workers.
"We will promote greater integration with the global economy and encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), especially in labour intensive sectors," it said.
"We will ensure that growth is socially responsible, and comes from genuine valude addition, not from stripping our natural resources or from underpaying our labour," it said.
The party said it would ensure that all towns and village panchayats are connected with high-speed broadband connectivity within 18 months.
The manifesto said the UPA government had made serious and systematic efforts to track down and recover black money and promised to continue this effort. It said the government would appoint a special envoy to pursue this agenda.
The Congress promised to provide skills training to 10 crore youth and provide them with employment opportunities over the next five years and ensure that every citizen has a bank account within the next five years.
The manifesto promised to implement the National Youth Policy, which includes development of sports, expand higher education opportunities with a focus on students from low-income families and open up the higher education system to investment from India and from abroad and bring the best available knowldege and teaching to the country's youth.
"We will move our focus from 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan' to 'Shreshta Shiksha Abhiyan', making 'quality' the centre of our agenda," it said.
The party promised to work towards the enactment of the Communal Violence Bill at the earliest and continue its focus on empowerment of women and fight for their security, self-respect and dignity, and equality.
Among other things, it said it w ould ensure the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill, formulate a Citizen's Charter for Women's Safety and Security, and provide upto Rs 1 lakh as low-interest loans to women through self-help groups for livelihood activities.
The Congress promised to enhance legal protection and resource allocation for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). It said it would enact central legislation on the Scheduled Casts and Scheduled Tribes Sub Plans to ensure focused spending of funds on weaker sections. It also promised to ensure the passage of the Scheduled Cstes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2013.
The manifesto said the party would strongly protect the interests of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), especially those amongst them that are most deprived. It said it would establish a new commission to inquire into the condition of the most backward and marginalized OBC communities who have not adequately received the benefits of government programmes and recommend corrective measures.
The manifesto promised to strengthen the legal and institutional framework to protect children.
"We will improve the working conditions of Anganwadi and related workers in whose our nation entrusts our most precious asset -- our youngest citizens," it said.
The Congress promised a major impetus to planned urbanization, creating inclusive cities, revamping urban governance, empowering mayors, increasing low-income housing and making larger investments in urban infrastructure, especially in multi-modal transport.
It said it would accelerate governance reform including legal, judicial and electoral reform, building on the momentum of the last few months.
It promised to enact the remaining anti-corruption and accountability bills that were blocked by the opposition and to implement a strategy for legal and judicial reforms. It said it would ensure that the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission are implemented and monitored at every step. It promised to develop a consensus and bring about legislative amendments towards effective and meaningful electoral reforms.
The manifesto said the party was committed to a series of specific legislative, administrative and regulatory measures to protect the environment. It said it would set up a National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA).
The Congress said it would ensure that the process of procuring the finest, and most state-of-the-art equipment for the Armed Forces was carried out efficiently and transparently, while ensuring the rapid development of the domestic defence industry.
"We will continue to protect and advance the interests of our defence personnel and ex-servicemen.
"We will continue to follow an unwavering pro-India foreign policy, enhance bilateral relationships with our neighbours and friendly nations, enhance commercial ties and strive to mobilize support for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council," it added.
The release of the manifesto was preceded by the screening of a short film on the process of drafting it, which included consultations held by Mr Gandhi with various groups, including youth, women, farmers, labourers, fishermen, students, businessmen, across the country to ensure that the document reflected the views of the people of India.
The manifesto talks about the Congress' contributions to India's unity, secular polity and democratic federalism and how it has championed the rights of the weaker sections, created conditions for faster economic growth and been an instrument of social and economic change.
It also includes a report card on the UPA government's performance and a comparison of the Congress with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party. It said the Congress had an inclusive vision, while the BJP's was an "exclusionary doctrine".
The document lists the important legislation enacted by the UPA government in the 2009-14 period.
The manifesto has a detailed action plan on the implementation of its manifesto for the next five years as well as a 100-day agenda for growth.
The detailed plan includes an economic roadmap for 2014-19, and the Congress' plans to create more jobs, protect the interests of labour, empower the SCs, STs and OBCs, accelerate skill development, empower women, protect children and safeguard minorities.
It dwells at length on building a world-class education system, promoting sports, rural development and Panchayati Raj, agriculture and family welfare, industrial and manufacturing growth, infrastructure (transport, energy), urban development, housing, environment and information and communications technology.
"The 2014 Lok Sabha elections will offer stark choices. On the one side is the Indian National Congess with its long track record of achievements and accomplishments, with its vision and values bequeathed to it by a most remarkable generation of Indians led by Mahatma Gandhi.
"On the other side is an ideology of hate, bigotry and prejudice, an ideology that negates the very idea of India that has been cherished by us for centuries.
"On the one side is the Indian National Congress, which celebrates and rejoices in the multitude of diversities of India. On the other side is an ideology that seeks to impose uniformity in the name of unity.
"Economic growth, social harmony, empowerment of weaker sections and strengthening of democratic institutions have to all go hand-in hand. It is only the Indian National Congress that will, by its very character, ensure that this happens," it added.