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February 5, 1998


JD manifesto extends Mandal to educational institutions

The Janata Dal has revived the Mandal card to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party's Mandir plank, by promising to extend 27 per cent reservation, so far confined only to government jobs, to admissions in educational institutions as well if it comes to power at the Centre.

Releasing the party manifesto in New Delhi on Thursday, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda said the Dal's concept of ushering in stability was totally at variance with other parties. "My party is keen that power is transferred to the grassroots for bringing about change with stability," he said.

Deve Gowda said apart from promising several innovative schemes for the upliftment of the underprivileged, the party has also accorded a new deal for the farming community which contributes over 35 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Continuance of the fertiliser subsidy, creation of a Rs 5 billion price stabilisation fund to end distress sales, earmarking 28 per cent of bank credit to this sector, removal of restriction on movement of foodgrains and commitment to complete all irrrigation projects within ten years by providing assistance to state governments, are also promised in the manifesto.

In a reversal of the United Front stand which attempted to introduce in Parliament a bill to open up the insurance sector to the private sector, the Janata Dal leader said the party would block any effort to open up the sector to foreign companies. Foreign direct investment would be confined to the infrastructure sector, he added.

Reflecting the concern of the domestic industry as enunciated by the Bombay Club, the party has also made a commitment that it would not allow foreign investors to the detriment of the domestic industry.

Party sources said the basic approach to economic reforms will be guided by the concept that the market is for the people and not the other way round. It promises a balanced approach towards globalisation to foster domestic industry.

The 20-page manifesto assured to create smaller states, enactment of Lok Pal Act covering top government officials, including the prime minister, to contain corruption at high places.

The manifesto, which incorporates several aspects of the UF common election declaration for the coming polls, vowed a new deal for agricultural sector, including remunerative prices for agriculture produce, compensation of Rs 50,000 to any farmer dying during agricultural operation, and link all rivers to bring more areas under irrigation and integrate the country. It also promised to launch a massive programme for utilising all available water resources for irrigation purpose with 50 per cent soft loan from the Centre to the state governments.

The JD also promised to provide insurance for crops and cattle against natural and unforeseen calamities. The party was committed to continue subsidy on fertilisers overriding the arguments against it. Fertilisers would be made available to farmers at affordable prices.

The JD would provide five per cent rebate on interest charged on loans to farmers by all financial institutions and the Centre would bear the cost of this subsidy.

The party would remove all restrictions on the movement of agricultural commodities within the country to help farmers. It would allow guaranteed export of wheat, rice, sugar and other produce like cotton. It would encourage rural unemployed to take up agro-based food processing units.

On industries the party would accord top priority to cottage and small scale industries, and allow certain items exclusively for the sector. Modernisation of industries would be allowed to improve quality.

The JD would establish a separate ministry of minorities under a cabinet minister to deal with all issues pertaining to minorities, including working of wakf boards and Haj pilgrimage. Centrally funded Urdu primary schools would be established in areas where that language speaking population exceeded 25 per cent, to increase literacy levels.

The party would open residential schools for children of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. An SC and ST development authority with adequate funds for economic development would be set up and the Ganga Kalyan scheme -- providing irrigation to SC and ST owned lands -- would be extended to the entire nation.

For the backward classes, the JD favoured a constitutional amendment to provide reservation for the economically backward among the forward castes.

To provide health facilities to depressed sections, the JD promised to set up a revolving fund contributed by the Centre where people like landless agricultural labourers and rural artisans could become members by paying a nominal contribution. The party would raise a corpus of Rs 5 billion to reimburse the treatment costs if elected to power.

For women, the party promised 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and state legislatures on the lines of reservation for women in local bodies. Rape laws would be revised providing stringent punishment for the offenders. It would also launch a centrally sponsored widow pension schemes to provide income security for destitute widows. More women would be recruited in police services and appointed at senior levels.

The party promised to make the right to work a fundamental one and provide total access to sources of information except on sensitive matters of national security. A media commission would be appointed to strengthen both print and electronic media to ensure the growth function in the true spirit of freedom.

On foreign policy, the manifesto said it would be guided by national interests, good neighbourly and friendly relations with one and all including major powers. It would promote close cooperation and partnership at all levels like trade, business, investment and mobility of country's skilled labour.

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