Cong releases poll manifesto with focus on jobs, farmers, Nyay
New Delhi, Apr 2 : The Congress on Tuesday released its manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls, making a slew of promises, including giving Rs 72,000 each to five crore poor families under the 'Nyay' scheme, filling up 22 lakh government vacancies, bringing a separate budget for farmers and fixing a single moderate GST rate.
The 55-page document titled 'Hum Nibhayenge' (We will deliver) focused on addressing the issues of joblessness, farm distress, safety of women and boosting the rural economy, with stress on building a narrative on "real issues" faced by people.
The manifesto was released by party president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior leader P Chidambaram among others.
For farmers, Congress promised to put them on the path from "Karz Maafi" (loan waiver), to "Karz Mukti" (freedom from loans).
This will be done through remunerative prices, lower input costs, and assured access to institutional credit, the party said, adding it will present a separate "Kisan Budget" every year, if voted to power.
Speaking on the occasion at the Congress headquarters here, Gandhi said the Congress will allocate 6 per cent of GDP to education, strengthen government hospitals and give high-quality healthcare access to poor if voted to power.
The party also promised to enact the Right to Healthcare Act and guarantee every citizen free diagnostics, out-patient care, free medicines and hospitalisation, through a network of public hospitals and enlisted private hospitals.
The Congress president alleged that the BJP government had spread hate and divisiveness in its five year rule and his party will work towards uniting India by bringing people together.
"Our manifesto process reflects our commitment to a higher vision, that of listening to the 'jan awaaz'. It is not the 'mann ki baat' of one individual but the collective voice of lakhs of people," he said in a preface of the manifesto.
With this manifesto, Gandhi said the Congress has offered to people "the only national alternative -- a distinct alternative that is unwavering in its commitment to truth, freedom, dignity, self-respect and prosperity for our people."
He promised to make India "strong and united, and a just and prosperous society".
On the party's showpiece minimum income guarantee scheme or Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), the party's manifesto promised to give Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent households in India.
To the youth of India, Congress pledged to make jobs its top priority, saying it will ensure 34 lakh jobs in the public sector by filling all 4 lakh central government vacancies before March 2020, persuading the state governments to fill 20 lakh vacancies and creating an estimated 10 lakh new Seva Mitra positions in every gram panchayat and urban local bodies.
The party said it will also provide a fillip to private sector by incentivising businesses for jobs creation and employing more women.
On GST tax, the Congress said it will radically simplify the GST regime with a single moderate rate of tax, zero rating of exports, and exemption for essential goods and services.
It also promised panchayats and municipalities a share of GST revenues.
The Congress, it said, will reverse the trend of declining defence spending under the NDA government, and increase it to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces.
"We will expedite all modernisation programmes of the Armed Forces in a transparent manner. We will improve social security, education and health facilities for our Paramilitary Forces and families," the party said.
On education, Congress promised that school education from Class I to Class XII in public schools shall be compulsory and free.
The party promised to pass in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha the Women's Reservation Bill reserving 33 percent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.
"Congress will also reserve 33 percent of all posts/vacancies in the Central government for women," it said.
Cong promises law to prevent, punish mob-engineered hate crimes like lynching
New Delhi, Apr 2 : The Congress on Tuesday said it will pass a new law in the first session of the next Lok Sabha to prevent and punish hate crimes such as "mob-engineered" lynching, stripping and burning if voted to power.
The proposed law will contain provisions to compensate victims and to hold the police and district administration accountable for proven negligence, the party said in its election manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"We will pass a new law in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha to prevent and punish hate crimes such as mob-engineered stripping, burning and lynching," the party said.
The Congress has been alleging that cases of lynching and mob violence have increased significantly under the BJP rule and no strong action is taken against the perpetrators of such crimes. The government has categorically rejected all such allegations and said strong action has been taken whenever such cases have occurred.
Also, under the section of review of laws, rules and regulation in its manifesto, the Congress proposed to omit Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that defines the offence of 'sedition', saying it has been "misused" and become "redundant because of subsequent laws".
The party called for decriminalising laws that are essentially laws directed against civil violations and can be subjected to civil penalties.
It also pitched for omitting Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and making 'defamation' a civil offence, according to the manifesto.
On the issue of media freedom, the Congress alleged that sections of the media have "abused or surrendered their freedom" in recent times.
"Nevertheless, we believe that self-regulation is the best way to correct the abuse of media freedom. Congress promises to amend the Press Council of India Act, 1978 to strengthen the system of self-regulation, protect the freedom of journalists, uphold editorial independence and guard against government interference," the party said.
The Congress said it will amend the Press Council of India Act to empower the Council to deal with the menace of fake news and paid news.