Fighting Lok Sabha polls with its back to the wall, Congress today promised in its manifesto an ambitious six-point charter of pro-poor measures, including the right to affordable healthcare, housing and pension, and to uplift 80 crore of the population to the middle class.
It has also set out a special Youth and Student Agenda committing to train 10 crore youth and give them employment opportunities in five years.
A highlight of the document is that Congress has also committed to finding a way forward for introducing reservation in education and employment for economically weaker sections of all communities "without in any way affecting existing reservations for SC, ST and OBC".
The manifesto released by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party vice president Rahul Gandhi, vowed to restore the country's sluggish economy to 8 per cent-plus growth rate within three years.
Titled "Your Voice our Pledge", the manifesto has come out with a 15-point agenda for socio-economic and political transformation of the country.
The agenda includes protection of minorities, empowerment of women and fight for their security, enhanced legal protection and resource allocation for SCs and STs and strongly protecting the interests of OBCs.
The charter of rights that will be put in place also includes the right to social security, the right to dignity and humane working conditions and the right to entrepreneurship.
The new rights will supplement the other rights established under UPA I and UPA II like Right to Food, Right to Information, Right to Education, Right to Employment and rights to fight corruption.
To support the right to health, Congress will increase health expenditure to 3 per cent of GDP and provide universal and quality healthcare for all, including free medicines.
The manifesto has fallen back on left-of-centre policies focusing on welfare measures and widening the ambit of rights- based legislations.
Expressing a resolve to tackle corruption, an issue that has hit UPA-II in the form of scams like 2G, coal and CWG, the party assured the nation that it will appoint a special envoy on black money.
It said the Congress is committed to creating a national consensus on affirmative action for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for jobs in the private sector.
The manifesto also unveiled a 100-day agenda for a new Congress-led government for growth noting that the immediate priority is to ensure that the economy gets back on track to clock 8 per cent growth.
The party said it will introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in Parliament and ensure the law is enacted within one year.
It also promised a new Direct Tax Code Bill in the first year of the 16th Lok Sabha.
It will announce a detailed jobs agenda to ensure that 10 crore new jobs and entreprenuership opportunities for youth are created.
On fiscal consolidation, the manifesto said Congress will achieve the target of fiscal deficit of three per cent of Gross Domestic Product by 2016-17 and always keep it below that level.
As regards industrial growth, the manifesto said the party will focus on manufacturing and especially manufacturing for export. "We propose that all taxes, central and state, which go into an exported product, should be waived or rebated. We also propose that there should be minimum traiff protection so that that there is incentive to manufacture goods in India rather than import them into India."
The party is also committed to creation of industrial corridors to catalyze economic growth and give a focussed thrust to manufacturing in the country.
It pledged to spend USD one trillion on upgrading India's infrastructure in the coming decade with the firm belief that it will serve as the backbone of the country's growth.
On Sachar Committee recommendations for upliftment of Muslims, the document promised to work "tirelessly" to ensure that every single recommendation is reviewed and efforts are made for their implementation.
The Congress manifesto said the party will ensure safety and security of women and children and provide them with equal access to social, economic and political opportunities.
It said fast track courts will be established with 'in-camera' proceeding facilities in state headquarters and in regional centres to deal with cases relating to crimes against women.
"Mandatory procedure for rapid conclusion of cases where custody of children is involved shall be put in place," it said.
Congress said it will expedite measures like creation of functional helplines in all major towns and cities and rural areas for prompt grievance redressal for women, exclusive 24-hour transport facilities and gender sensitivity classes for policemen and women, particularly in registering and investigating complaints made by women.
The document said Congress will provide a special youth development package for Left-Wing Extremism-affected areas with special focus on women and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
"We will start a special drive for recruitment of North East and Jammu and Kashmir youth in railways, army and other central government departments."
Referring to the judiciary and the legal system, the manifesto said Congress will support all initiatives to make higher and lower judiciaries "truly representative of the diversity of our society".
"This will be done in consultation with and with the guidance of the Chief Justice of India and his/her companion judges and without derogation from the independence of the judiciary."
The manifesto also talks about creating 100 new urban clusters around existing small and emerging cities and link them with power and transport facilities. The BJP was quick to point out that the idea was copied from Narendra Modi's 8-point development model for India that includes "building 100 smart cities." The Congress spokesperson brushed aside the charge as mere coincidence.
Congress Manifesto 2014
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