Lok Sabha polls: Congress promises Rs 1 lakh annual direct cash transfer to women from poor families

The Congress on Wednesday said that it would ensure annual direct cash transfers of Rs 1 lakh to women from economically weaker families, should it come to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, reported Moneycontrol.

The assurance is part of the Congress’ five guarantees for women ahead of the polls, which also includes a 50% reservation for women in government jobs.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi announced the five guarantees, collectively referring to them as “Nari Nyay” or “Justice for Women”, at a women’s rally in Maharashtra’s Dhule district. The rally was organised as part of the Congress’ ongoing Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

Gandhi also said that the Centre’s contribution toward the monthly honorarium given to Accredited Social Health Activists, anganwadi workers and women working for the Midday Meal Scheme would be doubled in the Union Budget.

Earlier in the day, party president Mallikarjun Kharge announced the five guarantees on social media, saying that they would set a “new agenda” for women.

“Our words are set in stone,” Kharge said. “This is our record from 1926 till now, when our opponents were being born, we have been making manifestos, and fulfilling those declarations,” he added.

Other guarantees included the appointment of a paralegal in every panchayat to ensure that women are made aware of their rights and to provide them with necessary legal assistance.

The Congress also said that it would set up at least one working women’s hostel in all district headquarters across the country.

‘Will settle Forest Rights Act claims in one year’

On Tuesday, the Congress promised Adivasis that it would ensure the settlement of all pending Forest Rights Act claims within a year, if it came to power after the polls.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, accompanied by General Secretary KC Venugopal and other senior leaders, had unveiled the party’s ‘Adivasi Sankalp’ manifesto in New Delhi promising six guarantees for India’s Adivasi communities.

Kharge had also announced the manifesto on social media and said that the Congress was determined to protect Adivasi’s rights to “zameen [land], jungle and jal [water]”.

The party president said that the Congress would set up a “national mission” for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act through a dedicated administration and budget.

The Parliament had passed the Forest Rights Act in 2006. The law gave back to traditional forest dwellers their rights to access, manage and govern forest lands and resources within their village boundaries. These had been under the control of the forest department since before Independence. The law makes the gram sabha the statutory body for managing forest lands. It provides that no activity should be carried out in these forests until individual and community claims over them have been settled.

Last year, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs had said in the Lok Sabha that over 38% of all the claims made under the Forest Rights Act till November 30, 2022, had been rejected.

On Tuesday, Kharge said that the party would ensure the settlement of all the pending Forest Rights Act claims within one year of coming to power that it would establish a process to review the rejected claims within six months.

Kharge, while listing the other guarantees in the manifesto, said that the party would “withdraw all amendments made by the Modi government to the Forest Conservation Act and Land Acquisition Act that have caused such great distress to Adivasis”.

The Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam, 1980, or Forest (Conservation and Augmentation) Act, passed in Parliament in 2023 despite protests by the Opposition, excluded large swathes of “deemed forest” land across India from protection and opened them up to development.

A “deemed forest” refers to land that is not formally classified as a “forest” by central or state authorities in revenue records by notification under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

Kharge said that the Congress would “notify all habitations or groups of habitations where STs [Scheduled Tribes] are the largest social group as Scheduled Areas – in all States and Union Territories of India”.

Kharge also promised that the Congress would pass a law guaranteeing a minimum support price to farmers for agricultural commodities, and said that the law will have a similar provision to compensate Adivasis for the production of minor forest produce.

A minimum support price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production incurred by the farmers. Minor forest produce includes non-timber commodities that are harvested by Adivasis on forest land, such as bamboo, honey, tubers, leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, among others.

This promise comes amid the ongoing farmers’ protests led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha unions. Thousand of protestors have been stationed at various locations on the Punjab-Haryana border since February 13.

The protesting farmers’ groups are primarily seeking a law guaranteeing a minimum support price and the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission Report’s wider recommendations on farming in India.

The Congress also promised to revive the Scheduled Caste Plan and the Tribal Sub-Plan.

Earlier the same day, Gandhi had said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government was taking away land from Adivasis and transferring them to corporate entities, The Hindu reported.

Gandhi, while speaking in Nandurbar district during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had granted a loan waiver of ₹16 lakh crore to 22 industrialists while no relief has been provided for Adivasis, Dalits and the poor.

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