Congress plans to bring right to health care in Lok Sabha manifesto: Rahul

Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Photo: @INCIndia
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday said his party’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls would include a right to health care. The Congress said it was committed to increase investment in health care infrastructure to make public hospitals the first choice for patients.

Over the past month, Gandhi has announced key manifesto promises. These have included a minimum income guarantee to all poor, or NYAY, a reformed goods and services tax (GST), 33 per cent reservation for women in central government jobs, and affordable housing for people living in urban slums.

Addressing medical professionals in Raipur, Gandhi criticised the government’s Ayushman Bharat health scheme. 

The Congress could also commit to allocating 6 per cent of the GDP to education, instituting a national commission on education, and build on its Right to Education Act to promise universal secondary education and it may enhance access to quality English education to the underprivileged sections.

Congress manifesto committee member M V Rajeev Gowda said a ‘right to health’ will guarantee universal access to health services, including diagnostics and medicines. “Our focus will be health assurance not insurance. The goal is to make public hospitals the first choice for patients, and eliminate the out-of- pocket-expenses that drive lakhs into poverty every year,” Gowda said.

Opposition parties are also set to release their common agenda later this month. Several organisations, academicians, other stakeholders have contributed to the brainstorming sessions of the Congress, and so have outfits such as the Samruddha Bharat Trust, Reclaiming the Republic and Waada Na Todo Abhiyan (Don’t break your promise campaign).

Some of the suggestions the Congress is considering for its manifesto, include stricter implementation of land ceiling laws and transfer of surplus land and other available land to landless poor and Dalits, provide land rights and pattas to women, and mutation of land in the name of women successors. Women groups have proposed that the Women Farmers Entitlements Bill 2011, introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2011, be passed to guarantee every woman engaged in agriculture status as a farmer through a ‘woman’s farmers’ certificate’. 

There is a proposal the State should exempt stamp duties and transfer fees for properties registered in the name of women. It could also promise to review laws relating to defamation, sedition, art/film censorship, social media and arbitrary invocation of section 144, “which is often used to restrict peaceful and democratic forms of dissent”.

Congress pledges to adopt single GST rate

The Congress will scrap the current structure of the goods and services tax (GST), and adopt a single rate, if it wins next month’s Lok Sabha election, people with knowledge of the matter said. 

The party, led by Rahul Gandhi, will pledge in its manifesto to merge the five different GST rates into one pegged at 18 per cent as it prepares for polls, the people said. Congress has been critical of the multiple tax rates in the current GST regime adopted by the current Modi’s administration.