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Congress leader stirs commotion, asks to overhaul Mandal politics

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New Delhi: Ahead of the Bihar assembly elections, Congress’s former Union Minister Jitin Prasad’s comment on the party’s Mandal politics is all set to unleash commotion; he has asked the party to fend off its age old Mandal politics wherein a handful of OBCs get advantages. He has also asked the party to overhaul the same, most backward castes and poor upper castes in job reservations get hold of privileges, according to reports.

Picture Credit: dnaindia.com
Picture Credit: dnaindia.com

He further added that Congress should look into the reservation policy for the backward caste people and formulate a more for “imaginative and politically daring inclusion and exclusion of groups from the benefits of reservation”, as quoted in a Times of India report.
The above statement is bound to unleash tremor in the political milieu considering the fact that Bihar assembly elections are awaited. His indirect reference to the more assertive OBCs like the Yadav and the Kurmi community might dent the alliance between RJD, JD(U) and Congress as both these parties have OBC supremos helming the affairs.

He has sought deliberation on the issue during the Rahul-Gandhi’s Chintan Shivir in Mathura on September 21.

“This is the only relevant political plank for the party’s revival in a political market cramped with ossified ideas revolving around caste and religion. If Congress is to break fresh political ground for itself in UP, it can only do so by carving up a social bloc based on progressive branding of the social justice system,” he said in a letter, as quoted in a TOI report.

“The poor among the general castes have to be brought into the ambit of reservation. It is an idea whose time has come given the abysmal state of being for a vast section among them. They suffer the same fate as the weaker backwards — victims of the flawed social justice system,” the letter further added.

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With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

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The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)