NEW DELHI, April 2 - In an attempt to corner BJP in the Northeast, the Congress party has made a bagful of promises, including an assurance to withdraw the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The Congress party�s manifesto released ahead of the Lok Sabha elections here on Tuesday morning has one full chapter on the Northeast. The manifesto release function was attended by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, manifesto committee chairman P Chidambaram, besides senior leaders like AK Anthony.
The manifesto promised to revive most of the schemes introduced during the erstwhile UPA regime. �The Congress affirms that the northeastern states are a unique and valued part of India that bring into our Union many diverse and rich cultures, languages, traditions and biodiversity,� the manifesto said.
�We will withdraw immediately the widely resented Citizenship Amendment Bill introduced by the BJP Government against the wishes of the people of the NE,� it said, adding, �We will ensure that no citizen of India is denied inclusion in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC).�
The Congress manifesto also promised to address the issue of illegal immigration into the northeastern states through consultation and evolve a consensus on the legislative measures that will secure the identity of the indigenous communities. �We will also engage the neighbouring countries, Bangladesh and Myanmar, to address and resolve the issue of illegal immigration into India,� it said.
The Congress will strengthen security along borders of the northeastern states with Bangladesh, Myanmar and China, resolve any border issues through dialogue with the neighbouring countries and make the borders �borders of prosperity and growth�. The menifesto also promised to resolve the pending inter-state issues, including boundary disputes, in the northeastern states through dialogue or mediation.
While committing to defend and protect the interests of the northeastern states and their people, besides ensuring rapid economic development of the region, the Congress promised to restore the special category status to the states in the Northeast. It also promised an industrial policy for the northeastern states.
While acknowledging the importance of border trade in the economy of northeastern states and the fact that regular export and import trade would create huge economic opportunities, including more jobs, in the region, the manifesto promised to take bold and innovative measures to enhance trade in general, and border trade in particular, with neighbouring countries and other countries further to the east.
The Congress also promised to strengthen the North Eastern Council and take steps to expand and reinforce the original mandate of the Council. The manifesto promised to substantially increase budget outlays for infrastructure and social sector development in the northeastern states, especially for railways, roads, communication, connectivity and tourism.
�We will use modern technology to harness the waters of the Brahmaputra and to find a permanent solution to the problems of flood and soil erosion. We will examine the opportunity provided by the mighty Brahmaputra to create a multi-modal transport system in the northeastern states,� the manifesto said.
�We will leverage the rich biodiversity and natural resources of the northeastern states to generate livelihood opportunities in sustainable agriculture, horticulture and organic farming,� it added.
Acknowledging the importance of autonomous district councils within the northeastern states, the Congress promised to enhance financial assistance to these councils. �We will ensure that tea garden workers are paid wages and given other benefits in accordance with the laws applicable to them and according to the bilateral agreements,� the manifesto said.
Meanwhile, party president Rahul Gandhi said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in Jammu and Kashmir will be reviewed. On AFSPA, the Congress chief said the party would make suitable changes in the text of the laws to balance requirements of security and the protection of human rights.
The Congress promises to review the deployment of armed forces, move more troops to the border to stop infiltration completely, reduce the presence of the army and central armed police forces in the Kashmir valley, the manifesto said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surejwala, however, clarified the party stand, saying, �We will not withdraw it without consulting the army. It will be discussed on case to case basis, but not without consulting the army. There are some areas, where the AFPSA is required.�