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Cong promises to lift 800m people into middle class, new rights

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, March 26 (IANS): The Congress Wednesday released its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, promising a new right to health, policies to lift 800 million people into the middle class and GDP growth rate of more than eight percent in the next three years.

The manifesto, which the Congress claims was put together after more than 30 public consultations, mainly by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, seeks to enhance the party's approach of rights-based legislations by including six more rights.

It also promises an agenda to create 100 million more jobs for the youth.

The manifesto said that the party will put in place charter of minimum "social-economic rights", including "right to health, right to pension, right to housing, right to social security, right to dignity and humane working conditions, and right to entrepreneurship."

Congress president Sonia Gandhi released the manifesto at the party office here in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and senior party leaders.

Setting out a 15-point agenda for India's socio-economic and political transformation, the Congress promised to bring "two-thirds of India's population - the skilled hands that build the country - into middle class."

The party said this will be done through a package of basic rights for all formal, informal, organised, regular and contractual workers.

"Our aim will be to provide them and all low-income families with economic security and a minimum standard of living to uplift their condition," the manifesto said.

The party is targeting people who were above poverty line but below the income level of the middle class.

The manifesto said the new rights will supplement other rights enacted during the 10 years of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance governments, including the right to food, right to information, right to education, right to employment, right to fight corruption.

"Together, these rights will provide an economic platform for people below the middle class to transform their lives through their own efforts than government handouts," the party said.

The manifesto said that economic growth and social justice were two sides of the same coin and must always go hand-in-hand.

It promised to restore 8 percent-plus growth rate within three years and take firm action to curb price rise and promote open and competitive economy to build India into a world leader in manufacturing.

The manifesto also talked of the new government's agenda for the first 100 days.

"The Congress will bring goods and services tax bill and direct tax code bill in parliament, announce a detailed jobs agenda to create 10 crore new jobs for youth," it said.

The Congress also promised to ensure that the unpredictable retrospective taxation was avoided and $1 trillion was invested in upgrading India's infrastructure.

It spoke of promoting a more flexible labour policy for maintaining competitiveness.

The manifesto said the party will promote greater integration with the global economy and encourage Foreign Direct Investment, especially in labour intensive sectors, to boost jobs.

The manifesto said the Congress has a record of achievements and accomplishments while on the other side was an ideology of hate, bigotry and prejudice.

"A vote for the Congress is a vote for fulfilling the aspirations of the youth of our nation, for ensuring that women lead a life of dignity," it said.

Releasing the manifesto, Sonia Gandhi said the party will separately bring out suggestions which could not be included in the document.

"Rahul consulted with people from different parts of India and incorporated their suggestions and aspirations. As it was not possible to include all suggestions in this manifesto, we will bring out the rest of the suggestions in the next few days," the party chief said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the manifesto attempts to cover the needs of all sections of society, from farmers, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, women and children.

"It is a forward looking document... it is in response to the needs of the people of the country," he said.

Apart from consultations with various sections, including porters, farmers and fishermen by Rahul Gandhi for the manifesto, the party received over 130,000 suggestions through a special website and social media platforms.

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