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HomePoliticsGujarat Election 2017After Hardik Patel, Congress may give in to Dalit activist Mevani’s wishlist

After Hardik Patel, Congress may give in to Dalit activist Mevani’s wishlist

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Congress manifesto for Gujarat polls to include Jignesh Mevani’s suggestions besides schemes for women’s upliftment, job creation models, plans to offset GST effects, among others.

New Delhi: Having given in to Patidar leader Hardik Patel’s quota demands ahead of the Gujarat assembly polls, the Congress is also likely to accommodate a slew of suggestions made by Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani.

A set of 32 demands that was sent to the Congress may be included in the party manifesto, sources told ThePrint.

Mevani has sought revocation of all police cases lodged against Dalit activists during the 2016 Una agitation, formation of an SIT to evaluate status of untouchability in Gujarat and special designated courts and a public prosecutor for disposal of pending cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, among others, ThePrint has learnt.

In July 2016, four Dalit men skinning a dead cow were flogged by cow vigilantes, sparking a major uproar among the Dalit community in the state.

Mevani has also demanded reservation in the management quota of medical and engineering colleges, free education in top institutes such as IITs and IIMs besides a slew of schemes to celebrate Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar by way of ‘Ambedkar Bhavans’ in every district, financial assistance to promote Dalit literature, translation of Ambedkar’s works into Gujarati and its wide circulation in academic institutes.

He has also sought bringing in latest technology and scientific instruments to address issues of manual scavenging and disposal of bodies. Mevani has suggested 100 per cent reimbursement of Goods and Services Tax paid by all kinds of new SC/ST businesses for seven years.

Besides, the Congress manifesto is likely to highlight the need to identify atrocity-prone districts in the state and provide special security for Dalit habitats in addition to proper rehabilitation packages for the affected families.

The Congress had brought in technocrat and the Gandhi family aide Sam Pitroda earlier this month to prepare a manifesto for the Gujarat elections based on people’s feedback.

Women’s empowerment

Apart from Mevani’s demands, the Congress manifesto — expected to be released within the next few days — will also feature a Gujarati variant of the Kudumbashree scheme, a women empowerment and poverty eradication programme of the Kerala government.

This programme will focus on empowering women members of the family, address issues of violence against them, facilitate capacity building and work on making women central to various schemes on health, education, nutrition, livelihood and bank credit linkages.

The Congress manifesto may also promise to revisit the Hindu Succession Act to ensure equal inheritance rights for women. Besides, 100 per cent fee rebate for girl students, free sanitary napkins across schools and free bicycles to girls travelling over 5 km to reach school may also figure in the draft manifesto.

GST and job cuts

GST woes will figure in the Congress manifesto with promises to reverse its effects on all farm implements, a separate trade ministry to simplify GST, bringing petrol and diesel under the new tax regime and a provision of free GST software for small businesses.

Surat, which is still reeling under the effects of demonetisation and GST, is also a focus area of the Congress. The grand old party aims to dole out a subsidy on equipment for chiffon and georgette manufacturers as well as for technology and quality upgradation besides a five-year tax relief to help develop Surat as a global textile hub.

The Congress may promise an international airport in Surat to support the global operations of the diamond and textiles business community. The former will be wooed with a reduction of tax on jewellery from 35 to 15 per cent and a provident fund for diamond workers. A ‘Saurashtra & Kutch Development Board’ is also on the anvil.

To tackle the problem of job loss, the Congress is considering an ‘unemployment benefit package’ for graduates and postgraduates. Turning Baroda into an IT and service sector hub is also envisaged in a bid to generate new jobs.

Proposals like setting up ‘Model Gandhian Schools’, CBSE-curricula based grants-in-aid schools, teaching of science and mathematics in English rather than the vernacular language have been proposed to make students employable.

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