The march towards a new India cannot be complete without the inclusion of the last person standing in the line. For our nation to progress we need to empower the weaker and vulnerable sections of society. Congress Party's ideology has been about providing justice and informing its policies by logic of this principle.
The ten years of the Congress led United Progressive Alliance government have been about inclusive growth. We have combined high economic growth with inclusive politics and economics, proving extremists on either side of the 'free market vs welfarism' divide wrong.
Congress has had a long history of bringing social transformation in the country and this was re-emphasised during UPA-I. The UPA government has followed a rights based approach to governance and initiated revolutionary legislations such as the Right to Information Act 2005, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Forest Rights Act 2006.
'Congress thinks that the government must remove this wall of poverty, this barrier is stopping the poor from progressing, from adding quality to their life. Congress policies are aimed at breaking the wall of poverty whether it is RTI, MNREGA, Food Bill. We want to serve the poor,' said Congress Vice-President Shri Rahul Gandhi.
This agenda was carried forward by the UPA-II government and in January 2013 during the ChintanShivir of Congress Party at Jaipur, Shri Gandhi reiterated the party's committment towards the inclusive growth model.
'We realise the large regional disparities that exist both at national and state levels and pledge to work for the progress of the backward regions of the country. Until balanced and inclusive development of all regions is ensured, India cannot progress,' Shri Gandhi said during his speech at the ChintanShivir.
In the year 2013, UPA passed important legislations that reflected its commitment towards social inclusion. It passed the National Food Security Act which provides heavily-subsidised food to two-thirds of India's 1.23 billion people.
Under the act 67% of India's population will be provided food grains at subsidised rates under the scheme. The beneficiaries would be getting wheat at Rs 2 per kg and coarse grain at Rs 1 per kg. According to Shri Gandhi, the Food Security law is to make sure that no one goes hungry in our country.
By giving food security the status of a legal right, the Congress-led UPA government has placed the onus on the government to ensure the food security of each and every Indian. The National Food Security Act, which gives food security the status of a legal right, bears testimony to the UPA government's commitment to a rights-based approach of governance.
'It is time to send out a message that India can take responsibility of ensuring food security for all Indians. Our goal is to wipe out hunger and malnutrition all over the country,' said Congress President SmtSonia Gandhi.
The other important legislation that the UPA government passed in 2013 was the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2012. The act is an attempt to address the widespread and historical injustices that occur in the wake of land acquisition by establishing strong legal prerequisites. Under the act the farmers whose land has been acquired will be compensated four times the market value in rural areas and twice the market value in urban areas. Also consent of 80 percent of affected families is now compulsory before acquiring the land in private projects and in the case of PPPs, the entity has to secure consent of 70 per cent of affected families.
'We have drafted and introduced a new law on Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R). The new law will address issues related to compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected parties in land acquisition,' said Shri Gandhi.
Empowerment of all has been the philosophy of Congress and the passage of Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill re-emphasises its ideology. The Bill will benefit as many as 10 crore street vendors across the country. This is one of the few attempts by any government anywhere in the world towards the welfare of those who earn their livelihoods in the unorganised sector. The Bill seeks to protect the rights of urban street vendors from harassment by the police, municipal authorities and others.
The Bill is also aimed at regulating street vending activities by issuing certificates through the Town Vending Committee.
The UPA government also passed the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill to eliminate the despicable practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate those who are dependent on it for their livelihood.
The Bill seeks to prohibit employment of individuals as manual scavengers by prescribing stringent punishment, including imprisonment up to five years. It has provisions for rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their family members as well. Offences under the Bill are cognisable and non-bailable and may betried summarily. The Bill seeks to provide alternative jobs and offering other provisions to those in such work and their families.