Describing it as the ‘voice of the people,’ the Congress party on Tuesday released its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. The manifesto has been divided into Kaam (Employment), Daam (Economy), Shaan (Pride), Sushashan (Governance), Swabhimaan (Self-rights), Samman (Dignity). The NYAY scheme, jobs, a promise to abolish NEET, withdrawing the trans bill from Parliament and abolishing the defamation and sedition laws form part of the Congress’s manifesto.
The manifesto was released in the presence of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders.
Speaking at the event, former Union Minister P Chidambaram, who chaired the Congress Manifesto Committee, said the manifesto "addresses the interests of farmers, industry, Dalits, minorities, workers, and women.”
Addressing the media, Congress President said that he wanted the manifesto to reflect the wishes of the people of India and not be a manifesto to be made in closed rooms
“I had also said that whatever is going to be in this manifesto has to be truthful, I do not want a single thing in this manifesto that is a lie because we have been hearing a large number of lies spoken every day by our Prime Minister,” Rahul Gandhi added.
Here are the main promises the Congress has made:
Jobs: The Congress has promised to ensure 34 lakh jobs in the public sector by filling all 4 lakh central government vacancies before March 2020 and asking the state governments to fill their 20 lakh vacancies. The Congress has promised to launch relaunch its flagship scheme MGNREGA 3.0 by guaranteeing employment for 150 days as against 100 days earlier. The Congress has promised a new Ministry of Industry, Services and Employment in order to underline the link between the growth of the industry and services sectors and rapid creation of jobs. The Congress has also promised that application fees for government examination and government posts will be abolished.
NYAY scheme: Congress has promised to introduce the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), their minimum income scheme, under which Rs. 72,000 per year will be transferred to the poorest 20 per cent households in India. “It will be transferred to the woman in the household, as far as possible,” the manifesto states.
A new planning commission: Congress has promised to scrap the NITI Aayog and bring in a lean planning commission that will employ rural youth. “Congress promises to constitute a Planning Commission with re-defined responsibilities such as to formulate medium and long-term perspective plans and to function as an independent expert body to perform crucial functions in a federal system,” the manifesto states.
GST 2.0: Congress’s manifesto promises to review and replace the current GST laws with GST 2.0. “The GST 2.0 regime will be based on a single, moderate, standard rate of tax on all goods and services. The rate will be revenue neutral to the current indirect tax revenues of the Central and State Governments and will take note of the potential of GST 2.0 to boost their tax revenues,” states the manifesto. The Congress has also promised devolution of a share of GST revenues to Panchayats and Municipalities. “All assistive and adaptive aids, appliances and devices will be zero-rated under the GST 2.0 regime,” the manifesto adds.
Abolish defamation, sedition: The Congress has promised that it will omit Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (that defines the offence of ‘sedition’) and has promised to omit Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code and make defamation a civil offence.
Special status to AP, statehood for Puducherry: The Congress has promised a special category status to Andhra Pradesh and full statehood to Puducherry.
Promise to withdraw the trans bill: The Congress has promised to immediately withdraw the controversial trans bill which is pending in the Parliament and direct that gender sensitivity training, especially for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, be made mandatory in all government departments and organisations including the Armed Forces and the Police Forces.
Prison reforms: The Congress has promised to release undertrial prisoners facing charges punishable with imprisonment of 3 years or less who have spent 3 months in prison.
For women: Congress has promised to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. Congress has also promised a comprehensive review of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplaces Act, 2013 and has stated that it will extend the Act to all workplaces. Fiscal incentives to businesses that employ a certain percentage of women have been assured. Congress has also assured that it will set up a separate investigative agency to investigate heinous crimes against women and children.
Diversity Index: The Congress has promised a Diversity Index as a metric to assess and ensure diversity in all government bodies, semi-government agencies, public sector enterprises and other public bodies.
Health: The Congress has promised that the allocation to healthcare will be doubled to 3 per cent of GDP by the year 2023-24. In place of insurance model, Congress has promised to bring in a free public hospitals model. The Congress has also said that a National Healthcare policy will be implemented which will guarantee to every citizen the right to healthcare services, including free diagnostics, out-patient care, medicines and hospitalisation through a network of public hospitals and enlisted private hospitals.
Education: School education to be transferred to the state list, the manifesto promises. Congress has assured that it will double GDP allocation to education to 6% and to increase the number of Navo Vidyalaya and Kendriya Vidyalayas. Restore the 200-point roster system.
Abolish NEET: One of the most vocal demands of the opposition in Tamil Nadu is the scrapping of NEET. The Congress promises to take measures to “dispense with the NEET examination” and substitute it with state-level exams. Significantly, Congress’s ally, the DMK had also promised the abolition of NEET in its manifesto.
Promise to establish a separate Fisheries Ministry: The Congress has promised a separate Ministry of Fisheries and Welfare of Fisherfolk and a National Fisherfolk Commission to promote fishing and the welfare of fisherfolk. This has been a longstanding demand of fishermen across the country. In its interim budget in February, the then Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had announced the creation of a separate fisheries department. Over the years, several fishermen from Tamil Nadu have been arrested for straying into Sri Lankan waters, while many other fishermen from Gujarat have been arrested for illegally trespassing in Pakistan waters. To avoid such conflict, Congress has promised a permanent mechanism with neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan in order to improve the livelihood of the fishing community.
A law against hate crimes: Regarding religious and linguistic minorities, the Congress manifesto proposes to bring in a new law to punish hate crimes. “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 law will contain provisions to compensate the victims and to hold accountable the police and district administration for proven negligence,” states the manifesto. The past five years have witnessed a number of cases of mob lynchings whether it was Akhlaq, who was killed in 2015 on the suspicion of possessing beef, or several others who were targeted by mobs over rumours of being child lifters.
Federalism and Centre-state relations: The party promises to review the distribution of legislative fields in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and build a consensus on transferring some legislative fields from List III (Concurrent List) to List II (State List). “We will implement the recommendations of the Fifteenth Finance Commission and will urge the States to implement the recommendations of their respective State Finance Commissions,” the party’s manifesto states.
Digital rights: The Congress has promised high-quality internet at affordable rates to all persons and has also promised to bring in regulations to stop the spread of fake news and hate speech and punish those who misuse digital and social media.
Judicial reforms: Congress’s manifesto states that the party will amend the Constitution to make the Supreme Court a ‘Constitutional Court’ that will hear and decide cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution and other cases of legal significance or national importance. It has also promised a Court of Appeal between the High Courts and the Supreme Court, to hear appeals from judgments and orders of High Courts. The Congress has promised that the number of POCSO courts will be increased and trials will be put on a fast track. “We promise that the National Commission for Women and the National Commission for Minorities will be given Constitutional status as in the cases of similar Commissions,” the manifesto adds.
– Scrap electoral bonds as a means of political funding.
– Review AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir
– An investigation into the Rafale deal and has also promised to probe how ‘several scamsters were allowed to leave the country.'