What Does Congress’s ‘Your Voice, Our Pledge’ Manifesto Have To Offer?

Posted on March 30, 2014 in Politics

By Sonakshi Samtani:

The INC released its manifesto called ‘Your Voice, Our Pledge’ for Lok Sabha elections on 26th March, 2014. The party website opened a column for suggestions a few months back. Focusing on a wholesome election manifesto much prior to the elections was a smart move, and the BJP has created a similar portal accepting suggestions for its manifesto recently.

A word cloud visualisation of the Congress Party's manifesto. The words "Indian", "National", "Congress", which were the most commonly used terms throughout the document, have been removed (Source)
A word cloud visualisation of the Congress Party’s manifesto. The words “Indian”, “National”, “Congress”, which were the most commonly used terms throughout the document, have been removed (Source)

INC’s election manifesto addresses a variety of issues and can be broadly termed as an inclusive growth oriented document.

Economic Growth: The party promises to prioritize bringing India back to the 8% growth plan and intends on a zero aversion to foreign investment. They promise to finally bring the ‘Direct Tax Code’ and ‘Goods and Services Tax’ Bills, to increase aggregate revenues.

Corruption:The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill’ for more control to state agencies fighting corruption. The ‘Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill, 2011’ will bring foreign organizations under its ambit. The ‘Public Procurement Bill, 2012’ will regulate all public procurements by the Central government.

Labour Interests: Health and pension cover for the entire labour class. Special focus on labour working in hazardous industries. All migrant labourers to be covered under the Aadhaar programme within one year. Proper implementation of the ‘Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

Women’s Rights:Women’s Reservation Bill’. ‘One Stop Crisis Centres for Women’ in all hospitals. At least 25% staffers in police stations and passing a ‘Citizen’s Charter for Women’s Safety’.

Health and Environment: Bringing ‘Right to Health’ and ensuring universal access to quality healthcare. Increasing the health expenditure to 3% of the GDP. Functional toilets for every school and household. Creating 60 lakh new jobs in the health sector, by 2020.

Ensuring the reflection of environmental degradation costs through ‘Green National Accounts’. Setting up a ‘National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority’. Large scale cleaning of rivers and a ‘National Mission on Wind Energy’.

Empowering SCs, STs and OBCs. Minority Rights: Passing the ‘Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2013’, and ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill’. Establishing a special commission to identify communities that have not benefitted from reservation.

Children’s protection: Strict implementation of the Child Labour and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

Urban Development and Housing: Providing fully functional powers to mayors and chairpersons. ‘Right to Homestead’ to all poor households. Indira Awaas Yojana and Rajiv Awaas Yojana to be expanded to cover all rural and urban poor households, respectively. Ensuring title deeds to those who’ve been living on lands for more than two decades.

Rural Development & Panchayats: Adequate compensation to Anganwadi workers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives. A universal pension scheme to cover elderly, destitute, widows and other similar groups. Road network connections across all habitations with a population of 125 or more. Access to drinking water, increasing panchayat funding and digitizing land records.

Infrastructure and Governance: Pledge to spend US $ 1 Trillion on infrastructure upgradation. Launching a ‘National Road Transport Safety Programme’. Connecting all million-plus cities with High Speed Rail and coastal terminals and ports through adequate rail and road network.

Working towards decriminalizing homosexuality. Implementations of the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission. ‘The Judicial Appointments Bill’ and ‘The Judicial Accountability Bill’ for establishing a transparent method of appointing judges. Special monitoring system for timely disposal of all cases involving elections.

Agriculture, Farmer Welfare, Industry: Increased coverage of crop insurance schemes. Establishment of a ‘Ministry of Fisheries’ to help families dependent on fishing. Concessional loans, up to Rs. 5 lakh to collectives of small, marginal and women farmers.

Prioritize the implementation of the ‘National Manufacturing Policy’ to enhance the share of manufacturing in GDP to 25% by 2022. Speedy completion of the Industrial Corridor Project. Attracting new investment for job creation within 100 days of government formation. An ‘E-Biz Project’ for providing a single platform to all investors.

Youth & Student Agenda, Communication & Information Technology: Transforming the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to Shreshth Shiksha Abhiyan. State-of-the-art sports facilities and establishing a National Sports Education University. State-run employment exchange for those seeking employment abroad.

‘Democratization of Information’ to revolutionize service delivery, citizen interface and accountability. ‘Aapka Paisa, Aapka Haath’ to ensure timely delivery of benefits and preventing corruption. High speed broadband connectivity in panchayats and advanced wireless communication systems for better disaster management.

Internal security, Defence & Foreign Policy: Augmenting equipment, infrastructure and manpower in Left Wing Extremism affected areas and pursuing a development agenda to empower locals.

Expansion of military potential. Establishment of a ‘National Commission for Ex-Servicemen’ to oversee implementation of welfare schemes meant for families of ex-servicemen.

Striving for a permanent seat in UN Security Council. Intelligence sharing, cutting out financial flows to terrorist outfits and stopping money laundering to counter terrorism.

Opinion
1. Ensuring proper implementation of the ‘Unorganized WorkersSocial Security Act, 2008’. The Act itself has been criticized for not defining a minimum social security floor that is enforceable by law and for not providing institutional powers to ensure effective implementation. The National Social Security Board for Unorganised Workers, constituted in August 2009, is limited to an advisory role, and does not have sufficient powers to implement, monitor or enforce social security. With the exception of a few states such as West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, a majority of the states have not even set up their state level welfare boards.

2. A significant portion of the manifesto relies on a large number of bills that the Parliament was unsuccessful in clearing during the previous term. There is no mention of bringing the political parties under the RTI ambit, to tackle corruption.

3. The promises meant for ‘women empowerment’ seem to be too much on paper, even when implemented. The women’s reservation bill has been pending in the Parliament for approx. two decades now. The focus seems to be more on imposing women’s safety, rather than working towards equality at the grassroots.

4. Establishing a special commission to identify groups that have not benefitted from reverse discrimination could be very fruitful.

5. The promises is the areas of health and environment are commendable.

6. Thumbs up to aiming at transforming the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ to ‘Shreshth Shiksha Abhiyan’. The present condition of government schools is far from satisfactory. The special impetus on sports infrastructure and training in the manifesto is appreciable.

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