Free healthcare, equal pay for women, minimum daily wage: Key promises from Congress manifesto

Other promises include legal assurances for farmers, protection of worker rights, laws to protect journalists, and judicial reforms.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with senior party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi releases the party's manifesto ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with senior party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi releases the party's manifesto ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024.Photo | PTI

The Congress on Friday unveiled its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, featuring proposals such as establishing a right to apprenticeship, providing a legal assurance for Minimum Support Price (MSP), and advocating for a constitutional amendment to elevate the 50 percent cap on reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs, among other pledges.

Here are some of the key highlights from the party's manifesto:

Healthcare

  • Universal and free healthcare in public health centres such as hospitals, clinics, primary health centres, mobile healthcare units, dispensaries and health camps; free healthcare to include examination, diagnostics, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation and palliative care.

  • The Rajasthan model of cashless insurance up to Rs 25 lakhs for universal healthcare will be adopted.

  • Current universal healthcare programme to be redesigned for different sections of people and allow enlistment of private hospitals, non-profit health facilities and health centres under health insurance schemes.

  • Maternity benefits will be available to all women. All employers will be asked to mandatorily grant paid maternity leave for their employees.

  • Budget allocation for health to be increased step-by-step every year to achieve 4 percent of total expenditure by 2028–29.

  • Doubling Centre's contribution to the pay of frontline health workers (such as ASHA, Anganwadi, Mid-Day meal cooks, etc.)

  • Establish one government medical college-cum-hospital in each district; no hospital or medical college shall be permitted to be opened or allowed to function unless 75 percent of medical, paramedical and teaching posts are filled.

  • All manufacturers of medicines will be under strict scrutiny for maintaining quality and following good manufacturing practices.

  • Number of central government dispensaries will be rapidly expanded.

  • National Mission on Immunisation will be taken up; will ensure full immunisation of 100 percent of children within 5 years.

  • Expand mid-day meal scheme up to Class XII to address nutritional deficiency among children.

Women's welfare

  • 'Mahalakshmi scheme' to provide Rs 1 lakh per year to every poor Indian family as an unconditional cash transfer. Benefactors to be identified among families at bottom of income pyramid. Amount to be directly transferred to bank account of oldest woman in household. Absent a woman, it will be transferred to the account of the oldest member of the family.

  • Reserve 50 percent of central government jobs for women starting in 2025.

  • More women appointments in high positions such as judges, secretaries to government, high-ranking police officers, law officers and directors on the boards of listed companies.

  • Ensure ‘Same Work, Same Wages’ to prevent wage discrimination against women.

  • Strictly enforce laws intended to prevent offences against women such as sexual harassment at workplace and protection from domestic violence.

  • Centre to fund state governments in building night shelters for migrant women workers and adequate number of safe and hygienic public toilets for women will be provided in towns and cities.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with senior party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi releases the party's manifesto ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024.
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Farmers

  • Legal guarantee to Minimum Support Prices (MSP) announced by government every year, as per MS Swaminathan Commission; MSP payable to farmer-seller at procurement centres and APMCs will be directly credited digitally to farmer's bank account.

  • Crop insurance to be made farm and farmer specific; premium to be charged from farmer according to sum insured; all claims will be settled within 30 days.

  • Establish farmers’ retail markets in large villages and small towns to enable farmers to bring their produce and sell them to consumers.

  • Doubling value of output in dairying and poultry in five years; doubling funding for R&D in agriculture in five years.

  • Create three avenues for sale of agricultural produce after consulting farmer organisation - (a) Regulated Market under the prevailing APMC Act; (b) E-market that operated by autonomous body with representation of farmers’ organizations, Farmer-Producer Organizations (FPOs) and individual progressive farmers; (c) Freedom for farmers to sell agricultural produce at farm-gate or at any other place of choice with option to upload sale-and-purchase agreement on a digital ledger.

Fisheries

  • Fishing communities to be issued credit cards (like Kisan Credit Cards) by banks and extended credit.

  • Restore subsidies for diesel for sea-going fishing communities.

  • Inland fishing and aquaculture will be recognised as ‘agriculture’.

  • Fishing communities to be enumerated in caste census and given identity cards by Centre.

Jobs and Youth

  • Fill nearly 30 lakh vacancies in sanctioned posts at various levels in central government.

  • Abolish Agnipath scheme and direct Armed Forces to resume normal recruitment to achieve the full sanctioned strength.

  • Right to Apprenticeship Act to provide one-year apprenticeship with private or public sector company to every diploma holder or college graduate under age of 25. Apprentices to be paid Rs 1 lakh per year.

  • Write off all outstanding student loan debt, including unpaid interest as of March 15, 2024; Centre to compensate banks for forgiven amounts.

  • Revamp Fund of Funds Scheme for startups; allocate 50% of funds, aiming to distribute them equally among all districts, to support individuals under 40 in starting businesses and creating jobs.

  • Double number of Anganwadi workers and create an additional 14 lakh jobs; Appoint second ASHA worker in all villages with population exceeding 2,500 persons.

  • Launch urban employment programme guaranteeing work for urban poor in reconstruction and renewal of urban infrastructure.

  • Create new employment-linked incentive (ELI) Scheme for corporates to win tax credits for additional hiring against regular, quality jobs.

  • Provide jobs for low-education, low-skilled youth by launching Water Bodies Restoration Programme and Wasteland Regeneration Programme that will be implemented through village panchayats and municipalities.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with senior party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi releases the party's manifesto ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024.
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Workers

  • Guaranteed national minimum of Rs 400 per day.

  • Increase wage under MGNREGA to Rs 400 per day; MGNREGA funds and workers will also be deployed to build public assets. For 2023-24, highest daily wage under MGNERGA is at Rs 357 per day in Haryana and lowest wage is at Rs 221 in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

  • Introduce reforms in industrial and labour laws to restore balance between labour and capital to meet full employment and high productivity gains.

  • Make laws to specify and protect rights of gig workers and unorganised workers and enhance their social security.

  • Propose laws to regulate employment of domestic help and migrant workers, and ensure their basic legal rights.

  • List of ration card holders will be updated in all States immediately and it will be ensured that all ration card holders, including migrant workers, get their rations regularly.

  • Expand PDS coverage based on updated population figures; PDS will include pulses (dal) and cooking oil.

  • Sufficient funds will be allocated to PDS, ICDS and the Mid-day Meal Scheme to fulfil the mandate of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

  • Collaborate with state governments to open Indira Canteens, offering subsidised meals, as has been done in Karnataka and Rajasthan.

Media

  • Amend Press Council of India Act, 1978 to strengthen the system of self-regulation, protect journalistic freedoms, uphold editorial independence and guard against government interference.

  • Enact laws to protect journalists from coercive action by the State, including restricting powers such as government surveillance of journalists, seizure of their devices and exposure of their sources.

  • Enact laws to curb monopolies in media, cross-ownership of different segments of media, and control of media by business organisations.

  • Withdraw Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023; amend or delete Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023; Press and Registration of Periodicals Act, 2023, aimed at eliminating government's backdoor censorship.

  • Pass a law to preserve freedom of Internet and prevent arbitrary and frequent internet shutdowns.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with senior party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi releases the party's manifesto ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi, Friday, April 5, 2024.
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Judiciary

  • Establish National Judicial Commission (NJC), responsible for selection and appointment of judges in high courts and Supreme Court, in consultation with SC and Chief Justices of HCs.

  • Fill all vacancies in high courts and Supreme Court within three years.

  • Amend the Constitution to create two divisions in the Supreme Court: a Constitutional Court and a Court of Appeal.

  • Constitutional Court, consisting of seven seniormost judges, will hear and decide cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution and other cases of legal significance or national importance.

  • Court of Appeal will be the final court of appeal that will, sitting in benches of three judges each, hear appeals from the High Court and National Tribunals.

  • More women and persons belonging to SC, ST, OBC and minorities to be appointed as judges of HCs and top court.

  • Establish Judicial Complaints Commission, consisting of retired judges of apex court and retired Chief Justices of HCs, to investigate complaints of misconduct against judges of the higher judiciary.

Infrastructure

  • Modernise outdated railway infrastructure; ensure trains and stations serve needs of common people and commuters.

  • Policy on road tolls to be reassessed, with new formulas implemented to determine fair toll amounts and durations for each road segment, addressing concerns of excessive fees and exploitation by road-users.

  • Attract private capital to create public assets and infrastructure.

  • Implement comprehensive plan for multi-modal urban public transport.

  • Regulatory regime for ports and airports to be established to promote efficiency and competition among ports/airports.

  • Assess infrastructure deficit in the North Eastern states and provide more funds for building infrastructure.

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