Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday released the election manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Launching the 53-page Congress manifesto, Gandhi said it was “completely truthful and reflected the wishes of the people of India”.

The manifesto as claimed by the party was created following 121 consultations with the public and 53 consultations with experts in over 60 locations across 24 states and three Union Territories. The Congress Manifesto Committee is also said to have met with NRI representatives from over 12 countries.

Taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rahul Gandhi said, “Over the last 5 years of the BJP government, India has suffered under the ‘Modi model,’ which has devastated our economy, impoverished our farmers, destroyed jobs, divided communities, stoked hatred and spread fear. It is a model that has stripped the average Indian of dignity, voice and trust”.

A detailed plan of action was illustrated in the manifesto under 6 categories:

1) Kaam – “Employment and Growth”
2) Daam – “Economy”
3) Shaan – “Pride in hard and soft power”
4) Sushasan – “Good governance through independent and accountable     institutions”
5) Swabhimaan – “Self-esteem for the deprived”
6) Samman – “Dignity for all”

‘EMPLOYMENT AND GROWTH’

Jobs

The Congress in its poll manifesto pledged to give the highest priority to protecting existing jobs and creating new jobs.

The party has promised to fill all 4 lakh Central Government and institutional vacancies before March 2020, create an estimated 10 lakh ‘seva mitra’ positions in every gram panchayat and urban local body, launch a ‘Water Bodies Restoration Mission’ and ‘Wasteland Regeneration Mission’ to create one crore jobs, exempt new businesses from applicable laws and regulations (except Minimum Wages Act and tax laws) for a period of 3 years, encourage State Governments to fill their vacancies, reward businesses for job creation, provide businesses with fiscal incentives for employing more women, and require businesses with over 100 employees to start an apprenticeship programme.

Industry

Taking note of the changes in the global economy and the Indian economy, Congress has promised another radical, forward-looking Industrial Policy.

Infrastructure

Congress has vowed to address deficiencies like a flawed design, inefficient execution, insufficient capacity and poor maintenance of infrastructure with a combination of planning, technology,
quality and accountability.

Cities, Urbanisation and Urban Policy

Stating BJP government’s Smart Cities Mission — which replaced the UPA’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) — as a failure, the Congress promised to formulate a comprehensive policy on Urbanisation and address issues concerning towns and cities including city governance, livelihoods, housing, habitat, pollution, climate change, urban transport and disaster management.

Rural Development

The Congress in its manifesto titled, “We Will Deliver”, promised to launch MGNREGA 3.0 to address issues of water security, soil quality and similar issues that aggravate farmers’ distress. It said that it will increase the guaranteed days of employment up to 150 days in cases where 100 days have been achieved in a block/district.

Informal and Unorganised Sector

The party has promised to support micro and small enterprises that collectivise unorganised sector workers including waste pickers and scrap collectors, adding that it will ensure that notified minimum wages are paid to workers in the sector.

The Congress has promised to establish Aajeevika Kendras (Livelihood Centres) in all major cities and towns where a migrant worker may register
himself/herself in order to access government services, basic healthcare, crèches and schools for his or her children, skill development and training
centres and legal services.

‘ECONOMY’ 

Agriculture, Farmers and Farm Labour

Stating that the Congress feels the pain and distress of farmers, the manifesto has promised to waive the outstanding farm loans in other states as well after it kept its promise of loan waiver in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It said the party will provide special respite to farmers, not just through “Karz Maafi” or a loan waiver but by setting farmers on the path to “Karz Mukti,” or freedom from indebtedness.

In a surprise promise, the Congress has stated that debt is a civil liability and no criminal proceedings will be instituted against a farmer who is unable to pay his/her debt.

Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY)

As announced by Rahul Gandhi earlier last week, the Congress in its poll manifesto provides a Minimum Income Support Programme (MISP) or Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) under which Rs. 72,000 a year will be transferred to the poorest 20 per cent families in India.

Congress has also set the goal of elimination of abject poverty by the year 2030.

It said the money will be transferred to the account of a woman of the family who has a bank account or who will be urged to open a bank account.

Economic Policy

Congress’ economic philosophy is based on embracing the idea of an open and liberal market economy, creation of wealth, sustainable development, reduction of inequalities and assurance of welfare of all sections of the people. Such growth will be driven by the private sector and a viable public sector and underpinned by a robust system of social security.

Congress manifesto has promised to reverse the illegal interference by the BJP government into the functioning of the RBI.

Taxation and Tax Reforms

A major promise made by Congress is 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. The GST 2.0 regime will levy a special rate of duty on demerit goods.

The Congress has also said that it will abolish the e-way bill. Tax evasion will be detected through the risk management mechanism and strengthening the intelligence machinery.

Congress has promised to enact the Direct Taxes Code. This will, as stated by the party, levy taxes at reasonable and progressive rates having regard to the level of current incomes, income inequalities and the principles of tax equity.

Banking and Financial Sector

The Congress manifesto has promised a comprehensive review of the concept, role and functions of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in order to make PSBs robust and
competitive with healthy balance sheets.

Science, Technology and Innovation

The party manifesto stated that it will work with industry to increase the expenditure on science and technology to 2 per cent of GDP. It has also promised to allocate sufficient funds to promote science, technology and innovation.

Fisheries and Fisher folk

The manifesto stated that the Congress party will establish a separate Ministry of Fisheries and Welfare of Fisherfolk.

‘PRIDE IN HARD AND SOFT POWER’

National Security

Congress has vowed to reverse the trend of declining defence spending under the NDA government and will ensure that defence spending is increased to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces.

Internal Security

Congress has promised that it will keep a vigilant eye on the security situation and take every measure that is required to maintain law and order and to provide a sense of security for every citizen and for every visitor to India.

Once it comes to power, Congress has vowed to set up the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) within three months and NATGRID to be made operational by December 2019.

The party has promised an uncompromising approach and hard measures to put an end to terrorism and infiltration of militants. Congress has resolved to fight violent activities in the case of Maoism.

Foreign Policy

Congress has promised to establish a National Council on Foreign Policy consisting of members of the Cabinet Committee on Security, scholars, domain experts and diplomats to advise the Government on matters concerning foreign policy.

Congress will work with SAARC and ASEAN countries to enhance the volume of trade, investments, tourism and cultural exchanges and reap the benefits of geographical proximity, the manifesto said.

Border Security

Congress has promised to increase the strength of border guarding forces — BSF, SSB, ITBP and Assam Rifles — and post them on or close to the border to prevent infiltration, illegal immigration and smuggling. It has vowed to accelerate construction of border roads along all borders of India, especially, the India-China border.

Ex-Servicemen

The Congress has promised to substantially expand the capacity of the Armed Forces medical corps and hospitals to cater to the needs of ex-servicemen and their families.

The party has promised to remove the anomalies in the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP).

Central Armed Police Forces

The party manifesto has called for an increase in the strength of the CAPFs to meet the growing requirements of border security and internal security.

The manifesto promises to ensure increased representation of women to achieve a minimum of 33 per cent in the force strength of CISF, CRPF and BSF. Every effort will be made to induct more women into the other border guarding forces, namely, ITBP, SSB and Assam Rifles, it further read.

Art, Culture and Heritage

Congress stated that it was committed to protecting the rich diversity of India’s art and culture and to ensuring it flourishes in an atmosphere of freedom and creativity. It said it will resolutely oppose censorship as well as any attempt to denigrate the art and culture of any group. Congress will guarantee artistic freedom.

Tourism

Congress said it will take measures to achieve an annual growth of 20 per cent in tourist arrivals. It has promised a special tax regime for tourism-related businesses and income.

Non-Resident Indians

Congress, in its manifesto, promised to re-establish the Ministry of Overseas Indians that will be tasked to address the concerns of NRIs including their safety, conditions of work, social security and health benefits, education of their children, need for financial services and safe return to India.

Engaging With Citizens and Civil Society

Congress has said that it will re-constitute the National Integration Council to promote unity, solidarity, communal harmony, fraternity and reconciliation.

‘GOOD GOVERNANCE’

Institutions

The Congress has promised to restore the dignity, authority and autonomy of institutions — Reserve Bank of India, Central Vigilance Commission, Election Commission of India, Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Central Information Commission, National Statistics Commission and National Human Rights Commission — while making them accountable to the Parliament.

The Congress vows to amend the Aadhaar Act, 2016 in order to restrict the use of Aadhaar to subsidies, benefits and services provided by the government as was originally intended under the law.

Appointments to the Lokpal will be made in accordance with the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, the manifesto stated.

Anti-Corruption

Congress vows to enforce anti-corruption laws without discrimination. It has promised to probe several deals signed during the government including the controversial Rafale deal.

The manifesto further stated that the Congress will investigate the circumstances under which a number of scamsters were allowed to leave the country and will take determined steps to bring them back and face legal proceedings.

Governance, Transparency and Accountability

The party promises to ensure that Social Audits of the programmes taken up for implementation are conducted and placed before the people, at the end of every year, with a report card on achievements and what remains to be done.

It will review the Right to Information Act, 2005 in the light of its working in the last 14 years and omit provisions that may have diluted the Act and add provisions to strengthen the Act.

Congress promises to pass an Anti-Discrimination Law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, gender or language in the supply of goods and services that are made available to the public in general such as housing, hostels, hotels, clubs, etc.

It promises to re-introduce and pass the Grievance Redressal Bill, 2011 to provide for mandatory, time-bound grievance redressal.

Federalism and Centre-State Relations

The manifesto has promised to reduce the size of Ministries and Departments in the Central Government in such areas where sufficient capacity has been built by the State Governments.

For the Northeastern states, the Congress promises to restore Special Category status, withdraw the infamous Citizenship Amendment Bill and enhance financial assistance to the Autonomous District Councils in acknowledgement of their importance to the North-East states.

The Congress has also promised to give Special Category status to Andhra Pradesh as promised by Dr Manmohan Singh on 20 February 2014 in the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress has promised full statehood to Puducherry. It has also promised to amend the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 to make it clear that the Lieutenant Governor shall act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers except in matters concerning the 3 reserved subjects.

Local Self Governments

Congress said it will work with state governments to ensure that a share of GST revenue is allocated to Panchayats and Municipalities.

Judiciary

Congress will introduce a Bill to 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.

Congress promises to fix the retirement age of judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court at 65 years. The retirement age for judicial members in Commissions and Tribunals shall also be 65 years.

Review of Laws, Rules and Regulations

Congress has promised to decriminalise laws that are essentially laws directed against civil violations and can be subjected to civil penalties.

It promises to amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in order to strike a balance between the powers of security forces and the human rights of citizens and to remove immunity for enforced disappearance, sexual violence and torture.

Electoral Reforms

The Congress said it vowed to scrap the Electoral Bond Scheme that was designed to favour the ruling party. “Congress will ensure that EVMs and VVPATs are tamperproof. During counting, the count in at least 50 per cent of the EVMs will be matched against the physical count of the voting slips in the corresponding VVPATs,” it said in the manifesto.

Police Reforms

Based on the consensus with state governments, Congress says it will pass a Model Police Act that the states will be advised to adopt and enact in the State Legislatures.

The Congress manifesto promises to work with State Governments to augment the size of their police forces, to fill current vacancies within 18 months and to lay down a schedule for annual recruitment, taking into account anticipated vacancies.

“The party will ensure that state police forces reserve 33 per cent of all vacancies in direct recruitment and promotion for women constables and officers,” it said.

Media and Freedom of Media

The Congress has promised to amend the Press Council of India Act, 1978 to strengthen the system of self-regulation, protect freedom of journalists, uphold editorial independence and guard against government interference.

It will empower the Press Council of India Act to deal with the menace of fake news and paid news.

Perspective Planning and The New Planning Commission

Congress will scrap the NITI Aayog and 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.

‘SELF-ESTEEM FOR THE DEPRIVED’

Women’s Empowerment and Gender Justice

The Congress manifesto promises to pass the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to provide for reservation of 33 per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha.

It said it will amend the Service Rules to reserve for women 33 per cent of appointments to posts in the Central Government.

SC, ST and Other Backward Classes

The Congress manifesto promises to set up an Equal Opportunities Commission, which will recommend affirmative action strategies and policies to achieve equality and equity in education, employment and in economic opportunities. We will implement the recommendations of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the manifesto stated.

Congress promises to amend the Constitution to provide for reservation in promotion posts for SCs, STs and OBCs.

Jammu & Kashmir

The Congress manifesto has affirmed that the whole of Jammu & Kashmir is part of India. It said nothing will be done or allowed to change the Constitutional position of the state.

North Eastern States

Congress has promised to restore the Special Category status to the NES. It vows to withdraw the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill introduced by the BJP government.

Religious And Linguistic Minorities

Congress promises to uphold the rights of religious minorities and linguistic minorities.

The Congress manifesto also promises to 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.

De-notified Tribes and Semi-Nomadic Tribes

The Congress manifesto has promised a Special Census and the enumeration of Denotified and Semi-Nomadic Tribes and the integration of the data in the decennial census.

Senior Citizens

The Congress manifesto promises to review current policies on senior citizens and make suitable changes, taking into account advances in medical science and technology. It promises to provide affordable and quality healthcare to senior citizens under the Right to Healthcare Act.

Persons With Disabilities

The party has promised a fair deal for persons with disabilities and opportunities for them to be employed, productive and contributing to the welfare of their families and to the progress of our nation.

Rights Of LGBTQIA+

The Congress manifesto promises to protect the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. It said it will immediately withdraw the Transgender Bill, 2018, pending in Parliament.

‘DIGNITY FOR ALL’

Healthcare

Stating that full healthcare is the right of every citizen, the Congress manifesto has promised that the total government expenditure on healthcare will be doubled to 3 per cent of GDP by 2023-24. The party has also promised to enact the Right to Healthcare Act that will guarantee the right to healthcare services, including free diagnostics, out-patient care, medicines and hospitalisation through a network of public hospitals and enlisted private hospitals, to every citizen.

Education

The Congress manifesto says it will propose that School Education be transferred to the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution while retaining the subject of Higher Education in the Union List. The party also says school education from Class I to Class XII in public schools shall be compulsory and free, and suitable amendments will be made in the Right to Education Act, 2009, to achieve this. “We will end the practice of charging special fees for different purposes in public schools,” says the manifesto.

Digital Rights

Congress has promised to provide everyone access to high quality internet at affordable rates, upholding the principle of net neutrality “to ensure the internet stays a level playing field”. In an interesting announcement, the party said it would make all government departments publish all non-private data sets as open data, allowing citizens to access the data without having to file RTI requests.

Sports

The Congress manifesto promised to make physical education and sports an integral and mandatory part of the school curriculum. Higher education institutions will be encouraged to accord sports an important place. The party also promised to allocate sufficient funds to create modern sports infrastructure in different parts of the country.  The manifesto promised Centres of Sporting Excellence in different parts of the country and at least one Sports Counselling Centre in every district, besides sufficient funds to “promote sports among girls and women, persons with disabilities and disadvantaged groups such as Scheduled Tribes”.