Cong manifesto full of fat sops

Cong manifesto full of fat sops

With youth and the lower middle-class as its focus, the Congress is all set to promise sops to target groups through education loans without collaterals, skill development vouchers to the self-employed and, to woo rural community, individual crop insurance for farmers.

The Congress manifesto for the April-May general elections would also focus on the urban poor and help them fulfil their dreams of owning a home by expanding the housing schemes, currently being implemented by the Centre. For women, the manifesto would promise interest-free loans of up to Rs 5 lakh for self-help groups.

A 12-member sub-group for the manifesto work was set up under the chairmanship of Defence Minister A K Antony. However, with Rahul Gandhi deciding on opening up the process and incorporating comments from the public, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and party ideologue Mohan Gopal have emerged as the key players in the process.

In a bid to attract the backward classes, the Congress has also held out a promise to make four per cent of the government purchases from small scale units owned and run by dalits and tribals. The party is also expected to promise doling out “skill development vouchers” up to Rs 20,000 to self-employed individuals to upgrade their skill sets to meet the growing market standards.

Reaching out to the farm community, the Congress manifesto could also outline the intention of the party to bring 60 per cent of the farmers under some sort of institutional credit. At present, only 40 per cent of the country’s 130 million farmers have access to formal credits, while a majority of the rest rely on private money lenders who are known to charge exorbitant interest rate.

It also hopes to replicate the success of the farm loan waiver scheme introduced ahead of the 2009 by promising a new law to provide protection to the tune of up to 50 per cent against crop losses to farmers.

The manifesto is expected to be released on Friday by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi.

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