Here’s What the Congress Has Pledged for Women, Religious & Caste Minorities
Implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in letter and spirit, and stopping the eviction of 18.9 tribal & forest-dwelling households are a priority for the party.
The Congress manifesto — “Hum Nibhayenge” — makes several progressive promises, especially for women and minorities. It states that the party has historically been at the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights, equality and empowerment.
Here are the key highlights:
- The Congress promised to pass the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to provide for reservation of 33 per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
- The Congress party has promised a comprehensive review of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplaces Act, 2013 and has pledged to extend the Act to all workplaces. The party also said it would institute measures to address all forms of harassment of women.
- The Congress party will amend the service rules to reserve for women 33 per cent of appointments to posts in the Central Government.
- It promised to enforce the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 effectively and pledged to alleviate the gender wage gap.
- The party said that it would stipulate that every Special Economic Zone have working women’s hostels and safe transport facilities to increase the participation of women in the labour force.
- Any provision of law that prohibits night shifts for women would be repealed. In addition, the party promised that more night shelters would be built for migrant women workers. Further, more safe and hygienic public toilets for women would be provided in towns and cities, the party mentioned in its manifesto.
- Sanitary napkin vending machines will be installed in public spaces, schools and colleges, said the Congress party.
- The party has promised to launch model legislation to establish a separate investigative agency to investigate heinous crimes against women and children and urge State Governments to enact a law to establish such an investigative agency.
- They have also promised to launch the National Rural Livelihoods Mission-2 to make Self-Help Groups to increase livelihood opportunities for women.
- The Congress party mentioned that it will work with State Governments to implement a programme to provide single, widowed, divorced, abandoned or destitute women with a dignified and secure life.
- The Congress party promised to expand ICDS and provide a crèche in every Anganwadi based on need and demand.
For Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes too, the Congress party has promised several things in its manifesto. Some of the important points are:
- They have promised to set up an Equal Opportunities Commission, which would recommend affirmative action strategies and policies to achieve equality — and equity — in education, employment and in economic opportunities.
- The party has pledged to pass a law to restore the original purpose and intent of the 200-point roster system and implement it for the institution as a whole. At the same time, it promised to fill all backlog vacancies reserved for SCs, STs and OBCs in government, semi-government and central public sector organisations within 12 months.
- Congress has also promised to amend the Constitution to provide for reservation in promotion posts for SCs, STs and OBCs.
- The party said it would acquire panchami and mahar lands in the occupation of non-Dalits and distribute the lands to SCs and STs.
- The party Congress party has promised that it would increase the number and extend the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, presently available to SCs and STs, to scholars belonging to the OBCs. It also promised to pass a law to provide for reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs in private higher education institutions.
- The Congress party mentioned that it would work with State Governments to review the curriculum of schools and include texts on the history and culture of SCs and STs and the contributions made by leaders belonging to these communities.
- Perhaps one of the biggest promises the Congress has made is in regards to the Forest Rights Act. It said it is the party’s national mission to implement, in letter and spirit, the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and to secure for the Scheduled Tribes the rights guaranteed under the Act. The party also promised to remove the inconsistencies between the Forest Rights Act and the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority Act, 2005 and to reaffirm the role of the Gram Sabha.
- Furthermore, it has promised a time-bound review of all IFR/CFR claims rejected under the Forest Rights Act and disposal within six months, adding that it would stop the eviction of the 18.9 lakh households.
- The party has also pledged to establish a National Commission for Non-Timber Forest Produce and offer Minimum Support Prices for such products to improve the livelihood and income of Adivasis.
- Under the Affirmative Action Programme, the Congress party has promised to ensure that a fair share of government procurement and government contracts is given to SCs, STs and OBCs.
For religious minorities, the party said that “the strength and vibrancy of a true democracy are often judged by the rights and protection accorded to its minorities.” It added, “In the last 5 years under the BJP Government, hate crimes and atrocities against the minorities and other vulnerable sections of the people have increased manifold. The perpetrators of these crimes walk on the streets with impunity.”
In that regard:
- The Congress party has promised to uphold the rights of religious minorities guaranteed under Articles 15, 16, 25, 26, 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
- The party has pledged that it would pass a new law in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha to prevent and punish hate crimes such as mob-engineered stripping, burning and lynching. The law would contain provisions to compensate the victims and to hold accountable the police and district administration for proven negligence.
- The party said that the Waqf Properties (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Bill, 2014 would be re-introduced and passed. Waqf properties would be restored to the legal trustees.
- The Congress party has also promised to uphold the character of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia as minority educational institutions.
- The National Commission for Women and the National Commission for Minorities will be given Constitutional status as in the cases of similar Commissions, the traditional party mentioned in the manifesto.