The Congress is expected to promise creating a national consensus on affirmative action for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the private sector apart from pledging to set up 70 new universities in its manifesto to be released on Wednesday.
A new slogan – Aapki Aawaz Hamara Sankalp (Your Voice Our Commitment) – has been coined for the manifesto. The party had incorporated the views and suggestions from various sections of the people in its document.
The party has also assured that it will create a separate national commission for youth and students and make systematic efforts to address issues relating to discrimination against students from the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir.
Affirmative action – equal employment opportunities -- in the private sector for SCs and STs has been on the Congress agenda since 2004. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) wanted to bring a law for reserving jobs for SCs and STs in the private sector, which resisted the move, saying such an act would be against the constitutional provisions.
Former social justice and empowerment minister Meira Kumar had tried to build a consensus with the private sector on affirmative action but it did not bear the desired results. In 2009, the Congress promised affirmative action for SCs and STs in the private sector but not much headway was made.
Under the Rs. 99,000 crore National Mission on Higher Education, called the Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, the Congress promises to set up 70 new universities across the country.
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The government has already set up central universities in states where no such university existed. Jammu and Kashmir got two central universities whereas Bihar has two campuses for central universities. Many of these universities are working from ad hoc campuses.
The overall aim of the programme is to increase the gross enrolment ratio in higher education from the present 18% to 30% by 2020. To achieve the target, the government will have to set up quality higher education institutions, an important cornerstone of the mission.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi will be present at the release of the manifesto. Rahul took personal interest in the drafting of the manifesto and met a cross-section of people including women, youth, minorities, porters, farmers and fishermen, to elicit their views.
Battling allegations of corruption, the party is likely to announce specific measures to check the menace. It will also attack the BJP and other opposition parties for not allowing the UPA government to pass anti-corruption laws in Parliament.
The manifesto will talk about women’s empowerment, including reservation for them in the legislative bodies. The UPA has got the bill providing 33% reservation for women passed in the Rajya Sabha but could not bring it in the Lok Sabha due to resistance from some its allies.
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