From ‘Rohith Vemula Act’ to reservations in higher judiciary, Congress lists out its social justice commitments

Congress plans to ‘strongly resist the attacks on India’s welfare and affirmative action architecture by engaging in constructive politics and implementing creative policies’

February 27, 2023 02:00 am | Updated 07:47 am IST - Raipur

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses at the party’s 85th Plenary Session, in Atal Nagar-Nava Raipur on Sunday.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses at the party’s 85th Plenary Session, in Atal Nagar-Nava Raipur on Sunday. | Photo Credit: ANI

Enacting a law named the ‘Rohith Vemula Act’ “to safeguard the right to education and dignity” for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and minorities; creating a dedicated Ministry for the empowerment of OBCs; from securing equal access to jobs in the private organised sector for SCs, STs and OBCs to considering reservations for them in the higher judiciary — these were part of the Congress’s resolution on social justice at its 85th plenary session that concluded on Sunday. 

In what reflects a coordinated effort to check the expanding social base of the BJP and woo back traditional supporters among minorities, the Congress’ resolution on social justice, adopted during its 85th plenary session that concluded on Sunday, talks of the party re-committing itself to “strongly resist the attacks on India’s welfare and affirmative action architecture by engaging in constructive politics and implementing creative policies”. 

Also Read | In Raipur Declaration, Congress calls for unity, discipline to defeat BJP

It also talks of reviving scholarships for SCs, STs and OBCs, and including them under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservations. In the case of the tribes, the party alleged “the BJP government’s policies have taken away the rights of Adivasis and other forest dwellers”. 

The draft also makes a mention of mob lynching — a term that has been used for several incidents in the recent past where mob violence over issues like cattle smuggling have claimed several lives, particularly in the Hindi belt — and expresses commitment “to further strengthen the legal mechanism for ensuring protection of rights of these communities”.  

“Mob lynching particularly against minorities, atrocities against SCs and STs and violence against women have touched record highs in the last nine years. The sense of insecurity and agony among these communities/groups is extremely high because they are being continuously targeted with hate and gruesome violence by the BJP-RSS and their affiliates,” it says. 

A “universal basket of entitlements” has also been talked about for social justice. This makes a mention of Right to Basic Income through the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay) that’s running in Congress-ruled States, while also mentioning Right to Health, Pensions for single women, elderly persons, and Persons with Disabilities, among others. For women, it talks of history and steps taken by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to provide reservation for women, and adds that the Congress Party shall ensure the passage of the women’s reservation Bill in legislative bodies’ with appropriate provisions for reserved categories within the 33%.

Agriculture, youth, education 

The highlight of the party’s agriculture resolution is making Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops a legally enforceable right of farmers, with any purchase of agricultural produce below it a punishable offence.

While resolving to provide one-time immediate relief to farmers from indebtedness by bringing a debt waiver scheme to waive up to ₹6 lakh to each farmer, the party said that no criminal proceedings would be initiated against farmers over debt and no land will be auctioned to recover outstanding loans.

Announcing a slew of measures it proposes for youth, the Congress also resolved to implement its Udaipur Declaration “in word and spirit”. “We recognize that 50 under 50 was a revolutionary concept for the Congress organisation that must be implemented across all party positions from booth level to the Congress Working Committee,” its draft resolution for youth says. 

In its resolution on education, the party has come down heavily on the National Education Policy 2020 introduced by the BJP.  “.. NEP2020 is trying to reduce the entire education to that of literacy, numeracy, and skilling, and aims to weaken the public education system,” the draft says. 

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