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We will create a new ministry for minorities
All ongoing irrigation projects, along with their distribution systems, will be funded adequately and completed in a time-bound manner.
A comprehensive policy and programme for water management, command area development and for drainage will be developed and put in place.
The Congress will evolve a national consensus on the sharing of water of inter-state rivers. A permanent solution to all inter-state water disputes will be found and implemented.
Many parts of the country like AP, Orissa, North Bihar, West Bengal Assam are periodically ravaged by floods. Durable flood control measures to alleviate the misery of lakhs of people will be introduced.
Indiraji's 15-point programme for minorities continues to be our blueprint. Each and every element of this programme will be implemented with renewed vigour.
The Congress will create a new Ministry for Minorities to ensure better co-ordination and integration. A high-powered Commission will be set up to examine and give recommendations on how the representation of minorities in public services could be enhanced in a meaningful manner.
The Congress will amend the Constitution to establish a Commission for Minority Educational Institutions and provide direct affiliation for minority professional institutions to central universities.
New middle-level technical institutions in clusters where, for example, artisans and weavers are concentrated will be started.
The Congress will substantially enhance the corpus of the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation to spread education and literacy among minority communities.
In 1996, the Congress took the initiative to establish the Maulana Azad National Urdu University at Hyderabad. This University will impart higher education, particularly vocational and technical education, in the Urdu medium specially to women. The Congress will ensure that this University emerges as a centre of excellence.
The Congress government made Urdu the second official language in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, no follow-up action was taken by subsequent governments. The Congress will give Urdu its due status.
The Congress respects the personal laws of all communities and rejects that idea of a uniform personal law for all Indians. This goes against the very nature of Indian civilisation itself. Reforms of personal laws of communities will be considered only when there is a demand for change from the communities themselves.
The Congress enacted the Protection of Places Worship Act in 1991. This freezes the status of all places of worship as on August 15, 1947. This law will be strictly enforced.
On Ayodhya, the Congress will abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court. No other outside court solution will be allowed.
The Congress will include socially and educationally backward minorities in the list of beneficiaries entitled to reservations and other special measures intended for the OBCs.
Special security and insurance schemes for weavers and handloom workers, fishermen, toddy tappers, leather workers and plantation labourers will be introduced.
A special drive will be launched for the recruitment of minorities to the police, paramilitary forces and the armed forces. Communally-sensitive districts and places will be kept under special watch.
Scheduled Cases and Scheduled Tribes
The Congress will ensure that the existing policy on reservations for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in jobs and education will be implemented fully. All reservation quotas, including those relating to promotions, will be sought to be filled on a time-bound basis. Reservations will be legalised and put in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
The scheme of remedial and special coaching for SC/ST students will be further expanded.
Education at all stages will be free for the girl child belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities.
Special courts will be set up in adequate numbers in all tribal areas of the country to protect tribal interests and to safeguard customary tribal laws and practices.
A new forest policy will be formulated to integrate the management of forest lands with the genuine concerns of forest-based tribal communities.
The special line of credit of Rs 100 crore opened by earlier Congress governments through co-operative and commercial banks exclusively for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe farmers will be doubled straightaway.
In addition, a special scheme will be introduced for loans to be made available to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to set up small-scale, cottage and village industries.
Ownership rights will be conferred where land has been distributed to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families.
A separate National Commission for Scheduled Tribes will be established and given statutory status.
The Congress will actively promote and support the use of workers' cooperatives to turn around sick companies.
Various alternatives to enhance the participation of labour in management both at the shopfloor and at the board-level will be examined and specific measures taken.
The Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction will be completely overhauled so that it becomes an effective institution for industrial revival.
Facilities in all existing Industrial Training and Vocational Training Institutes and in polytechnics will be upgraded to internationalstandards. Private industry will be encouraged to participate in the running of these institutes.
The Congress will take steps to enhance the welfare of labour in the unorganised sector. A National Commission on Unorganised Labour will be set up to make specific recommendations.
Social security and insurance schemes for workers in the unorganised sector, particularly women, will be strengthened and expanded.
The Congress will actively seek a national consensus on industrial relations issues like the linkage between productivity and wages, secret ballots, multiplicity of unions and union leadership.
Employee stock option plans will be encouraged in industry through appropriate policy changes.
The Congress will ensure that all statutory dues to workers in public and private sector companies will be cleared in a time-bound manner.
Defence and Ex-Servicemen
The Congress deeply appreciates the gallant role being played by our armed forces in defending our borders and in counter-insurgency operations in sensitive states. The Congress is well aware that our armed forces have been discharging their duties under conditions of extreme hardship. The Congress will attend to their problems on a priority basis.
The Congress will take immediate action to arrest and reverse the decline in the quality of and morale in the defence forces.
The Congress will appoint a high-powered Commission to formulate essential reforms in our defence apparatus keeping in view the overall economic and foreign policy perspective. It will implement the recommendations in a time-bound manner.
The Congress believes the ex-servicemen are a very valuable asset whose potential must be recognised and harnessed in a constructive manner.
New resettlement programmes for ex-servicemen will be started. Ex-servicemen and their cooperatives will be used for specific programmes like literacy and afforestation.
The Congress will launch a political campaign for ending discrimination against women and girls through a process of education, empowerment and provision of legal rights.
Schemes for distributing assets like house sites and land jointly or singly in the name of women will be introduced.
The Congress will strengthen and expand existing programmes to increase access of women to credit.
All anti-poverty programmes like the IRDP will have women as their special target group. Women will be given a central role in watershed development and forestry projects.
The Congress party will be in the forefront of a campaign to combat atrocities on women like sati and dowry deaths and social evils like child marriage.
Youth and Children
The Congress will make NCC compulsory in all schools. This will help instil a sense of discipline at a young age.
The Integrated Child Development Programme will be expanded to all community development blocks in the country and arrangements made to ensure adequate nutritional support.
The National Mid-Deal Meal Programme launched by the Congress government in 1994 will be consolidated and will cover all elementary schemes in the country, with particular emphasis in the poorer states.
Laws against child labour will be strictly enforced. Special educational facilities will be created in areas where child labour prevails.
The Congress will launch a special scheme for the welfare of street children through voluntary agencies and non-government organisations. Street children must be provided shelter, nutrition and education.
Strict measures will be taken on the protection of the girl child. Stringent punishments will be introduced for female infanticide and foeticide.
Special insurance and social security schemes for the girl child among weaker sections will be launched.
The perennial problem of insurgency and militancy in the region will be effectively tackled by various means, including the speedy all-round development of the region, and through mutual understanding and negotiations with the various groups.
The Congress will ensure that the North-East Council is equipped with adequate expertise, larger funds and greater financial powers.
Regional offices of various Commodity Boards will be upgraded and given more financial powers.
The Brahmaputra Board will be activated and provide adequate financial resources for planning studies, demonstrations, projects and actual schemes.
Border trade routes will be developed at selected locations along the international border.
Guwahati will be upgraded into an international airport and action towards opening the aerial route between the North-East and East Asia will be initiated.
The inner-line permit system will be enforced as and where there is popular demand but at the same time the tourist potential of the area will be kept in mind.
The Autonomous District Councils under the Sixth Schedule of The Constitution will be given wider administrative and financial powers in consultation with the respective state governments.
Illegal infiltration into the region from the other side of the border will be effectively checked by strengthening the local border security force.
Efforts will be made to reopen and strengthen surface as well as river routes through Bangladesh with the rest of the country.
Special efforts will be made to develop forestry, tourism, handicrafts and other employment-oriented industries.
Public Distribution System
The Congress will ensure that only the poor and the needy have access to the PDS.
The PDS works well in the southern and in the western states of the country. But it is very weak in the poorest states of India. This anomaly will be rectified in cooperation with the state governments, local bodies and women's organisations.
The efficiency of FCI's procurement, storage and distribution operations will also be enhanced substantially.
The rate of growth of our population has fallen below two per cent per year. But it is still very high. Every year, we continue to add 1.5 crore to our population.
The Congress believes that the spread of female literacy, the empowerment of women, the provision of nutrition, the expansion in primary health facilities and an innovative communication campaign will all help in reducing the rate of growth of population.
A more determined effort is needed in north India and in the 150-odd districts where fertility declines are taking place at a very slow pace. The Congress will address the limitations of the current family planning programme in a systematic manner, involve the non-governmental and corporate sector in a meaningful way and will provide visible, explicit and sustained political support at all levels.
The Congress will remove all legal hurdles and ineffective Acts that stand in the way of accelerating housing and construction activity.
Fiscal incentives to promote house-building and rental housing will be introduced. Mortgage foreclosure laws will be enacted. Housing finance companies will be permitted to securitise their assets.
Technologies to promote low-cost housing and shelter to the urban poor will be deployed. Slums will be converted into liveable habitations.
Private and foreign investment in urban infrastructure projects will be permitted.
The Congress will review all pending TADA cases in a time-bound manner.
The Congress will take steps to ensure open and easy access to courts by expanding legal aid facilities to the poor, by campaign to inform people of their legal rights and by ensuring that delays in disposal of cases are eliminated. Delays in the Supreme Court have come down substantially but high courts and lower courts are still clogged. Whatever is required to cut these delays will be done.
A National Judicial Reforms Commission will be set up to suggest the detailed blueprint of a judicial system that will meet the needs of our people, commerce and industry in a more effective manner. Such a commission will also deliberate on the changing nature of the role of the judiciary vis-a-vis the executive.
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