Cong promises to raise 50% cap on quotas, right to apprenticeship, make MSP legal

NEW DELHI, 5 Apr: Right to apprenticeship, a legal guarantee of minimum support prices (MSP), passing a constitutional amendment to raise the 50 percent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, a nationwide caste census, and scrapping of the Agnipath scheme are among the promises made by the Congress in its Lok Sabha polls manifesto released on Friday.

The manifesto, focusing on five “pillars of justice” and 25 guarantees under them, was released at the AICC headquarters in the presence of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former party chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

In the 45-page document titled ‘Nyay Patra’, featuring pictures of Kharge and Rahul and Bharat Jodo Yatras, the opposition party said that it would implement 10 percent quota in jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker sections (EWS) of all castes and communities, without discrimination, if it comes to power.

The party also promised full statehood to Jammu & Kashmir, besides giving special status to Andhra Pradesh, full statehood to Puducherry, and to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, to declare that the lieutenant governor shall act on the aid and advice of council of ministers of the NCT, Delhi.

It also promised to fill nearly 30 lakh vacancies in sanctioned posts at various levels in the central government, and said that the Rajasthan model of cashless insurance of up to Rs 25 lakhs will be adopted for ensuring universal healthcare across the country.

The Congress will pass a constitutional amendment to raise the 50 percent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs if it comes to power in the general elections beginning 19 April, the party promised.

The party said also that it will conduct a nationwide socioeconomic and caste census, ensuring equitable distribution among all sections, as per their population. It said that it will review all laws that interfere with the right to privacy and make suitable amendments to various laws to uphold the right to privacy.

Rejecting the ‘one nation, one election’ idea, the Congress promised that elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies would be held as and when they are due, in accordance with the Constitution and the traditions of a parliamentary democracy.

It also promised to restore the voters’ trust in the election process by amending the election laws and ensure that VVPAT slips are tallied with EVMs.

The Congress said that it would review the new education policy brought by the NDA.

It also promised to enact a law on bail that will incorporate the principle that ‘bail is the rule, jail is the exception’ in all criminal laws. It further promised to introduce comprehensive prison reforms.

“The 2024 general election presents an opportunity for radically changing the style and substance of governance that has been in evidence in the past decade of anyay kaal. We appeal to you to look beyond religion, language and caste, choose wisely, and install a democratic government that will work for all the people of India,” the Congress said in its manifesto, while appealing to people to vote for it.

It said that it guarantees a new ‘right to apprenticeship act’ to provide one-year apprenticeship to every diploma holder or graduate below the age of 25, under which apprentices will get Rs 1 lakh a year.

It also promised to provide financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh cash transfer to a woman of poor households under the Mahalakshmi scheme.

“We will reserve one-half (50 percent) of central government jobs for women, starting in 2025.

“We will increase the wage under the MGNREGA to Rs 400 per day. The MGNREGA funds and workers may also be deployed to build public assets such as classrooms, libraries and primary health centres,” the party said.

Besides, it said that it would give legal guarantee to MSP announced by the government every year, as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

“We will immediately restore full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. We will amend the 6th Schedule of the Constitution to include the tribal areas of Ladakh,” the party stated in the manifesto.

It said that it would launch an urban employment programme, guaranteeing work for urban poor in reconstruction and renewal of urban infrastructure.

The party said in the document that it would abolish the Agnipath programme and direct the armed forces to resume normal recruitment to achieve full sanctioned strength.

It noted that in the last 10 years, the BJP “has done tremendous damage by misusing the brute majority enjoyed by it in Parliament to make laws that violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India as well as the fundamental principles of law-making, namely, necessity, consultation, reasonableness and proportionality.”

“We promise that all anti-people laws passed by the BJP/NDA without proper parliamentary scrutiny and debate, especially those relating to workers, farmers, criminal justice, environment & forests and digital data protection, will be thoroughly reviewed and changed. We will carry out complete investigations of the electoral bonds scam, the reckless sale of public assets, the PM CARES scam, repeated intelligence failures at the highest levels, and corruption in major defence deals,” it said.

“I urge everyone to have a close look at our manifesto and you will see a ‘shandaar tasveer’ (beautiful picture) of our country in it,” Kharge said, addressing the gathering.

“We will open the doors to the poor when we come to power. PM Modi is taking our people and claiming ‘400 paar’ MPs,” he added.

Only those who have done something and have fear are quitting the party to join the BJP, he added.

Kharge also wondered “what kind of level playing field is there when the principal opposition party’s accounts have been frozen?”

Rahul Gandhi said that “this Lok Sabha election is a fight between forces who are trying to destroy the Constitution and democracy in the country and those protecting them.”

He said that it is a much closer contest than propagated by the media, and expressed confidence of winning the polls.

“We do believe that it is very important once this fight is won that we look after the interests of the vast majority of our people,” he said, claiming that this is not a nation that would be run by 2-3 people and neither by monopolies.

Asked about who would be the prime ministerial face, Gandhi said, “INDIA bloc has decided that we are together fighting an ideological election, after winning the election, who will be the leader, the PM, the whole coalition will jointly decide.”

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “After a decade of anyay kaal, this nyay patra, centred on the theme of justice, will lay the path for an India that is more prosperous and equitable for all.”

Manifesto Committee chairperson and senior party leader P Chidambaram said that the primary concern of all and what the country needs is “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal said that the party would take its manifesto to the grassroots level and will hold public rallies in Jaipur on Saturday afternoon and Hyderabad in the evening, where top leaders would address. (PTI)