Oppn draft CMP: Urban job scheme, China are keys

An employment guarantee scheme in cities on the lines of MNREGA, a commission to ensure augmentation of farmers' income and measures to take advantage of China vacating labour-intensive industries are among a slew of issues that could find a place in the 'common minimum programme' of the Opposition.

A fee structure based on 'ability to pay' criteria, 'liveable cities for all' instead of 'smart cities', making India 'Skills Capital' of the World and reverse burden of proof for National Registry of Citizens in Assam among other “crowd-sourced” inputs are also likely to be part of the draft CMP that will be discussed during the meeting of a section of Opposition, including Congress, Trinamool Congress and AAP, late February.

These and other issues, includ‌ing a law to tackle hate crimes and a 'nine is mine' allocation of 9% allocation for health and education, highlighted in a document 'Peoples' Progressive Agenda for India' prepared by 'Samruddha Bharat Foundation', which has academicians, activists and senior Opposition leaders as advisers, may become a sounding board for the draft CMP. Recently, top Opposition leaders were presented with the document and their comments were elicited.

This document also has inputs from other similar initiatives like 'Reclaiming Republic', led by former High Court Chief Justice A P Shah and activists Prashant Bhushan and Anjali Bhardwaj.

Six Opposition parties, which met at NCP chief Sharad Pawar's residence on Wednesday, had entrusted the Congress to prepare a draft CMP, as they have decided to have a "pre-poll alliance" with a view to be in the game to form the next government at the Centre in case the parliamentary elections throw up a fractured mandate.

One of the prominent suggestions in the peoples' agenda is a National Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme on the lines of the existing programme for rural people. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act enacted by UPA government in 2005 is perceived to have helped the Congress-led coalition to return to power in 2009.

With agrarian crisis emerging as a poll issue and the Narendra Modi government facing pressure from farmers, another point under consideration is the setting up of a Farmers' Commission that first protects their income and then augment it as well as a Debt Relief Commission to arbitrate between farmers, banks and insurance companies.

Another suggestion that might find favour with the Opposition is the enlarging the scope of Public Distribution System by including pulses and oil to the ration basket.

While the CMP is likely to be welfare-oriented, it will also address the concerns of the industry amid an impression that the Opposition rhetoric is heavily tilted against them. Seeking to dispel such notions, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that they “love both agriculture sector and industry” and there should be a “balance” that allows them to go together.

The 'People's Agenda' talks about a synergy between industrial and trade policy with an emphasis on labour-intensive sector, which China is vacating now in favour of export-oriented manufacturing, for job creation. The document notes that the space vacated by China is occupied by Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia, and it wants India to capture this space by focussing on manufacturing, construction and services sector.

The CMP also include an 'ability to pay' system by introducing an income-differential fee structure across to ensure that every Indian is “educated and skilled”.

The Women's Reservation Bill is also likely to find a space while ensuring special safeguards for ensuring representation of women from SC, ST and OBCs in legislatures. At present, the bill passed by Rajya Sabha is stuck in Lok Sabha over the demand by parties like Samajwadi Party and RJD for a quota for SC, ST and OBCs within the 33% reservation earmarked for the fairer sex.

Compulsory use of VVPATs and its tallying with Electronic Voting Machines, “strictly” respecting the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution and a new model of appointing judges in higher judiciary could also be part of the campaign plank of the Opposition.

Another suggestion in the 'Peoples' Agenda is the making medical education “more accessible”, particularly for those from the lower socio-economic background.

Reservation in promotions and bringing a law to ensure a portion of the budget equal to the population proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to support schemes to bridge the gaps in their development in comparison to the rest of the society are also likely to find its way into the CMP.

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Oppn draft CMP: Urban job scheme, China are keys

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