The Opposition Congress led UDF on Saturday releaseditsmanifesto for the April 6 assembly polls, promising Rs 2000 ‘pension’ for homemakers, Rs 72,000 annually to the poor under ‘Nyay Yojana’ and five lakh homes for the underprivileged. It also assured creation of a Peace and Harmony department akin to that run by the Rajasthan government and five kg free rice for white ration cardholders.
The manifesto was released by UDF leaders, including the Front Chairman Ramesh Chennithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC President Mullapally Ramachandran. AICC General Secretary Tariq Anwar was also present. The manifesto, banking on the Nyay yojana, theminimum income guarantee scheme, proposed by senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, assured Rs 72,000 annually to the poor, whohave been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and the two consecutive floods in 2018-19.
The UDF, if voted to power, would give food kits free of cost to all, as also 100 units of electricity every month, it said Wooing women voters, the manifesto guaranteed Rs 2,000 monthly pension to homemakers between the age of 40-60, while those working in the unorganised sector would be entitled to six months maternity leave. Unemployed women from Scheduled Tribe community would be given Rs 3,000 for six months post delivery and a two year age relaxation for mothers appearing for exams for government jobs.
Women entrepreneurs will be given Rs 10 lakh interest- free loan. “Housewives aged between 40-60, who do not come under the Nyay scheme, launched by the Congress in 2019, will be entitled for the Rs 2,000 monthly pension.
We will provide free food kits for all those who are affected by the pandemic and ‘no bill hospitals’ will be opened,” Manifesto committee chairman Benny Behanan, MP, said. In an effort to reach out to Ayyappa devotees,UDF promised a special law to protect the traditions of the Sabarimala temple, which had witnessed violent incidents after the state government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict of 2018, allowing women of all age groups to offer worship.
As per temple tradition, women in the 10-50 age group are barred from trekking to the shrine of Lord Ayyappa,a celibate. The “people’s manifesto” also said that the social welfare pensions would be raised to Rs 3,000 and a Welfare Pension Commission would be formed.
The ruling LDF had yesterday announced pension for homemakers and had hiked the social security pension to Rs 2,500 from the present Rs 1,600. Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP, Shashi Tharoor, who played a major role in compiling the “demands and expectations of people from various sections of society”, told the media that UDF will form a Peace and Harmony Department.
“In order to put an end to the rising communal and political violence and to spread happiness, a Rajasthan model department of Peace, Harmony and Happiness will be formed here,” he said. The UDF ‘s aim is to make Kerala a knowledge hub and a review committee, comprising academicians, students and parents, would be formed.
“The primary concern is employability. Then we need to remove the digital divide,” he added. The manifesto also announced that five kg free rice would be given to white ration card holders.
In Kerala ration cards are colour coded and white card holders are non-priority, above the poverty line section of society. Then there are Blue card holders above the poverty line, which is also a nonpriority but subsidised Above Poverty Line (APL).
The Pink Card and Yellow card are for families below the poverty line (BPL) and carry subsidies and other benefits. Behnan said the Minimum Support Price of rubber will be increased to Rs 250, paddy to Rs 30 and coconut to Rs 40, Behnan said.
He also said that a special agriculture budget would be presented. To focus on the education sector, the manifesto plans to collaborate with foreign universities, Nobel laureates and other renowned personalities to make Kerala an educational hub.
Other than packages to tourism sector and other small scale industrial sectors, the poll document also plans to create Miyawaki-model small forests to increase the green cover in urban areas. Chennithala said discussions were held with people from different sections of society over the past six months to draw up the manifesto.
“The manifesto is a Bible, Quran and (Bhagavad) Gita as far as the UDF is concerned”, he said.