New Delhi: Perhaps along the lines of a separate Railway budget that was merged with the main Union Budget with much difficulty after years of objection by experts, the Congress is now proposing a separate budget for the farm sector. Saying that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have worked on this model, Congress president Rahul Gandhi made this announcement while releasing the manifesto of his party on Tuesday.
Touted as ‘Jan Awaz Ghoshnapatra’ (manifesto lending voice to the people), the package of election promises by the Congress includes a vow to address issues like suicides by farmers, unemployment and women’s safety without providing a roadmap to achieving the goals.
Former Union minister P Chidambaram claimed before the press on the occasion that several ordinary citizens had contributed to the making of this manifesto to the extent of drafting some of the promises!
Sam Pitroda, Indian Overseas Congress Chief on party's election manifesto: Don't underestimate our ability to deliver,we'll deliver. We promised we'll deliver. We've delivered in past&we'll deliver in future. Who created telecom jobs?How did we get from 2 mn telephones to 1.2 bn? pic.twitter.com/5zhFiwWCfw
— ANI (@ANI) April 2, 2019
‘Safeguarding Hindu interest not important’
The party president said employment was more important for the nation at the moment than preserving Hinduism or safeguarding Hindu interests, responding to questions from the media at the event of the release of Congress manifesto.
Gandhi was told that, in a recent speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the plight of Hindus was highlighted. He was asked how the Congress planned to counter BJP’s nationalism. Rahul Gandhi said India needed employment and caring and justice for women including reservations for members of the sex.
Gandhi said Modi was running away from the truth. He asked journalists why they don’t question the Prime Minister as to why the latter does not face a press conference.
The BJP has been alleging that the Congress’s promise for loan waivers to the farmers of the States won recently was not honoured. Interpreting that as “BJP cannot do it”, Gandhi said the people needed to trust him; that the Congress could waive loans.
About the Rs 72,000 dole each to 5 crore poor people, the manifesto says, “Gharibi par waar, bahattar hazaar (strike on poverty: seventy-two thousand).” Taking a dig at the popular myth that Modi had promised Rs 15 lakh in every account in 2014, Gandhi said he could promise Rs 72,000 each to the poor for sure.
To the unemployed, the Congress promises 150 days of guaranteed work under MGNREGA whereas it had failed to ensure even 100 days of work wherever the scheme was applied under UPA 1 and 2. A Business Today report dated 2015 says “The average days of employment provided under MGNREGS was a mere 45.2” under the UPA rule.
Claiming that there are 22 lakh vacancies in the government sector, while the manifesto promises to fill them, the devil lies in the details. It says further in the passages that the central government, if formed by the Congress, would request the State governments to fill the seats!
National security not important either
The manifesto promises to amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which protects India’s soldiers and paramilitary force jawans in abnormally violent areas like Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur and some other parts of the Northeast.
The manifesto reads, “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.”
“The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in Jammu and Kashmir will be reviewed. Suitable changes will be made in the text of the laws to balance the requirements of security and the protection of human rights,” the Congress says, catering to separatists and human rights breast-beating brigade.
The Indian Army rubbishes complaints of abuse of the law and says that the Act is necessary to operate in the abnormal conditions. It says the alleged atrocities by soldiers is not possible for the simple reason that indiscipline and transgressions are dealt with firmly and the accused are court-martialled.
Other than Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram, former Union minister AK Antony and Congress national spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala attended the Congress manifesto releasing event.