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regular-article-logo Monday, 04 March 2024

Equality and financial inclusion drive Congress vision

Political resolution at the 85th party plenary proposed a robust legal framework, including a new law to prevent and punish hate crimes

Sanjay K. Jha Raipur Published 26.02.23, 02:56 AM
Congress leaders during the plenary in Raipur on Saturday.

Congress leaders during the plenary in Raipur on Saturday. PTI

The Congress on Saturday went beyond criticism of the Narendra Modi government and offered an alternative vision of governance based on equality, justice and financial inclusion, while resolving to “liberate the nation from its present agony and darkness”.

The political resolution at the 85th party plenary proposed a robust legal framework, including a new law to prevent and punish hate crimes, and a national “Right To Healthcare Act” to protect households from being devastated by illness and the cost of treatment.

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The economic resolution rejected the contemptuous linking of populist measures to a “rewri culture”, a trend started by the Prime Minister. It advocated strengthening the welfare state with programmes such as the NYAY minimum income guarantee scheme, educational support for the poor, and direct cash transfers to housewives.

Hate crimes

The political resolution, which promised a law against hate crimes, said: “The politics of hate has assumed alarming proportions and religious polarisation has reached its peak. Hate crimes and atrocities have increased manifold.

“Vigilante Right-wing groups incite violence on various trivial issues. These groups operate with impunity and have started acting like police, spreading anarchy and fear. This fear in the minds of minorities is the aim of the RSS-BJP regime.”

Asserting that the Congress stands for “secularism, socialism and federalism”, the resolution said: “The Congress should be absolutely clear about its ideology, with which our forefathers fought for freedom and sustained democracy.

“Minorities form about a fifth of India’s population. Neglecting, marginalising and alienating them is inhuman, and hits at the unity and integrity of India.”

The Congress argued that “India has never witnessed such a disastrous situation as seen during the past eight-and-a-half years — of fear, hate and intimidation”.

The inheritors

“The forces which collaborated with British rule and opposed Mahatma Gandhi were responsible for his killing. The inheritors of these forces hold power today, and are doing everything they can to erase his legacy,” the political resolution said.

The plenary took note of how the Modi government had disrupted the concept of an electoral level playing field.

Poll fund, EVMs

The Congress promised a National Election Fund, which would transparently fund political parties according to certain criteria laid down by law, and the abolition of the opaque electoral bond scheme, accused of favouring the ruling party.

The resolution indicated the Congress’s readiness to approach the Supreme Court again on the question of the fairness and manipulability of the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

“More than 14 recognised political parties, several eminent activists and computer scientists have raised concerns on the efficacy of the EVMs to the Election Commission but have not received any response so far,” the resolution said.

“When voters lose faith in the integrity of the electoral process, especially EVMs, our democracy hollows from within. The Congress will build the widest possible consensus with all like-minded political parties to take up the issue with the Election Commission, and if they do not respond, then go to court.”

Legislative list

The Congress also unveiled a legislative agenda that included a strengthened anti-defection law; a law to check discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, language or gender; the re-introduction of a grievance redressal bill; and a “comprehensive review of all laws, rules and regulations to repeal those that are outdated, unjust, or unreasonably restrict the freedoms of the people, journalists, academics, activists and NGOs”.

The resolution referred to the misuse of the anti-terror law UAPA and the sedition law against the government’s critics and the unleashing of agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate, CBI, NIA and income-tax department on the BJP’s political opponents.

Economy

The economic resolution reiterated the party’s resolve, aired at the Udaipur conclave, to reset the economy to reduce inequality, create jobs, support agriculture and the MSMEs, and break monopolies.

It underlined how Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty and other economists had in their World Inequality Report 2022 estimated that the bottom 50 per cent Indians accounted for just 13 per cent of the national income while the top 5 per cent flaunted their wealth.

“Extreme poverty among the bottom 10 per cent of the population should be considered a grave threat while framing economic policies,” the resolution said.

“We support a programme like NYAY that is designed to facilitate targeted cash transfers. The welfare of the people will be enhanced if prices are stable, taxes are fair and reasonable, and there is money in the hands of the people for the consumption of goods and services,” it said.

“The Modi government’s track record has been the exact opposite, starting with the infamous demonetisation, crippling taxes on petrol and diesel, high administered prices.”

Among the various proposals made were: “An education allowance or merit-cum-need vouchers to children who complete 10 and 12 years of school education; sufficient funds to address the issues of malnourishment; access to health care and medicines to all sections of the people; secondary school students from vulnerable communities with free tablets and Internet connections; an allowance to women homemakers who do unremunerated work for many hours a day; larger financial support to Anganwadis; total waiver of fees for government job applications and job examinations; social security and insurance to workers in the unorganised sector….”

Foreign policy

The international resolution regretted the Modi government’s squandering of the advantages the Congress had gained for the country through its management of foreign policy.

“This is because it (the Modi government) is not sufficiently seized or equipped to handle the historic shift that the world order is witnessing,” the Congress said.

“Instead, due to its myopic and hawkish policies that are driven by its ideological proclivities, the BJP government has undermined India’s unique strengths.”

China frontier

The resolution expressed deep concern at the situation on the China frontier.

“Sadly, the government has failed to take the people of India into confidence about the repeated transgressions by Chinese military at various points across the Line of Actual Control, while it continues to engage with China in an unstructured manner,” it said.

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