The Nyay Patra, a Revolutionary Document of Justice that Promises to Reverse the Damage!

Dr. G. Ramachandram Dr. G. Ramachandram
22 Apr 2024

The first general election in India was conducted in 1951-52. The election was conducted with the universal adult franchise in a country where 84% of people were illiterate with no experience in electoral politics. It was the biggest experiment in democracy in human history. No country had experimented with democracy with a universal adult franchise before. The US granted all its adult citizens the right to vote only in 1965, nearly 200 years after its independence. That was the proudest moment of independent India. The biggest upset was the defeat of Morarji Desai and BR Ambedkar from the Bombay Province, which demonstrated the power of the ballot.

Now, India is holding the general election for the 18th Lok Sabha (House of the People) in seven phases, from April 19 to June 1, 2024, with a massive 970 million electorate. The most decisive election will determine India's destiny—whether it will retain constitutional democracy or plunge into a full-fledged dictatorship, as many fear, if Narendra Modi returns to power for the third term.

So much damage has been done to India during the past 10 years of the Modi government. For instance, controlling and capturing the media; misusing and weaponising the enforcement agencies, such as ED, CBI and IT, to intimidate and silence the political rivals; toppling the elected opposition governments by using money power; rising majoritarianism coupled with intolerance, hatred and violence towards those who are critical and dissent against the policies of the government by the Hindu extreme right-wing elements; rendering Parliament ineffective by expelling the opposition members en masse and then passing the crucial bills with voice-vote without discussion and debate, politicising the independent institutions and denying them autonomy and freedom of action; and growing economic and social inequality with the rise of a corporate oligarchy- all this explains the damage inflicted on India by the current government.

To address these issues, the principal national opposition party – the Indian National Congress – has announced its Manifesto, titled Nyay Patra (document of justice), on April 5. The Manifesto, described as the 'voice of the people' and the 'soul of India', is based on the countless interactions that Rahul Gandhi had with the people, cutting across communities and professionals, during his Bharat Jodo Yatra and Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, reflecting the concerns and aspirations of the people. It is the most revolutionary document of justice that would transform India, ushering India in social revolution. It promises to end the 'bulldozer justice', to secure freedom from fear, to amend the 10th Schedule to make defection punishable by automatic disqualification, to enact a law incorporating the principle that bail is the rule, jail is the exception in all criminal laws; to put an end to the weaponisation of laws, arbitrary searches, seizures and attachments, arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests, third-degree methods, prolonged custody and custodial deaths. The Manifesto "promises to ensure that the police, investigation and intelligence agencies will function strictly in accordance with law." It promises to repeal laws restricting free speech, the right to dissent, and privacy.

The Nyay Patra announced the five pillars of Nyay (justice), with 5 guarantees each, totalling 25. These are the five pillars of Nyay, in a nutshell:

Yuva Nyay: To fill 30 lakh vacant posts in central government to ease the severe crisis of unemployment among the youth; to ban contract appointments in all sectors, including education, a stipend of Rs 1 lakh for apprenticeship of a year to degree and diploma holders below the age of 25; one-time write off of education loans; to set up fast-track courts to adjudicate cases related to question paper leaks and monetary compensation to the victims; to double the allocation of budget to education and to make education up to Class 12 free and compulsory in public schools; doubling the funds for scholarships for OBC, SC and ST students and amend the contentious New Education Policy, and scrapping the Agnipath recruitment scheme.

Kisan Nyay: The Manifesto promises a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm products, loan waiver for farmers, and GST-free agriculture.

Shramik Nyay: The minimum daily wage under MGNREGA is raised to Rs. 400, and also to Anganwadi workers, gig workers and workers in the unorganised sector; urban employment guarantee programme for the urban poor; and to lift 23 crore people out of poverty to make India poverty free. The Manifesto promises to raise the 50% cap on SC, ST and OBC reservations.

Nari Nyay: Transfer of Rs. 1 lakh a year to women in every poor family; 50% reservation in government jobs to appoint more women and persons from SC, ST, OBC and minorities as judges of High Courts and Supreme Court. The Manifesto promises to provide a 33% quota for women in Parliament and State Assemblies immediately, without waiting for the census and the delimitation, as proposed in the Women Reservation Law recently passed by the Parliament and to bring a law to protect women at workplaces and night shelters.

Hissedari Nay: The Manifesto promises a nationwide socio-economic caste census. This will not only help formulate policies and programmes, as per the data but also ensure justice for various social groups or communities by accruing the benefits of the government welfare scheme proportionate to their number. It is a mark of social justice.

The other highlights of the Manifesto are: The Congress assures that, if voted to power, it would investigate the demonetisation, the Rafale deal, the Pegasus spyware, the electoral bonds scheme and the PM Cares Fund and also restore corruption probes against the politicians who have managed to wipe their slates in the BJP's 'washing machine'. Its Manifesto declares that it will uphold the fundamental right to practice one's faith and rights guaranteed to religious minorities under the Constitution and that it will not interfere with personal choices of food and dress, to love and marry and that it will repeal all laws that unreasonably interfere with personal freedoms. It vows to put down hate speech, crimes, and communal conflicts with a firm hand. It promises to decriminalise defamation and bring police, investigation and intelligence agencies under the oversight of Parliament and State Assemblies. It also announced a plan to get the NSA and the National Security Council office under parliamentary oversight.

The Congress Manifesto makes another important promise of restoring the primacy of Parliament, which got severe thrashing under the Modi regime: "We promise that the two Houses of Parliament will each meet for 100 days in a year... that one day in a week will be devoted to discussing the agenda suggested by the Opposition benches in each House ... that the Presiding Officers of the two Houses will be required to severe their connection with any political party". This will make parliamentary debates complete and meaningful, ensuring independence, neutrality, and impartiality for the Speaker and the Chairman of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha while discharging their duty.

The Manifesto appeals to people: "Our greatest concern was the prevailing climate of fear, intimidation and hatred. In the last five years, every section of the people has lived in fear; laws and investigating agencies have been weaponised to intimidate people and through its words and actions the BJP and its affiliates have spread hatred among people belong to different religions, languages and caste groups. The 2024 general election presents an opportunity for radically changing the style and substance of governance that has been in evidence in the past decade of Anyay Kaal. We appeal to you to look beyond religion, language and caste, choose wisely, and install a democratic government that will work for all the people of India".

Launching the party's Manifesto at Jaipur on April 6, Sonia Gandhi charged the Modi government: "Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who considered himself above the nation, is tearing apart the dignity of the country and its democracy. Today, our democracy is in danger. Democratic Institutions are being destroyed. We have never witnessed such a government that has demolished the status of the opposition, weakened all the central agencies through political power, and pushed the public into a sheer state of despair. This is nothing but dictatorship. The country wants justice. Our country doesn't belong to a handful of people but to everyone. We have to bring the ray of hope and the ray of justice in this dark time of this country for which our ancestors sacrificed their lives".

The Nyay Patra is a revolutionary document of justice that promises to reverse the damage done to India by the Modi government during the past ten years. Justice, human dignity, and inclusivity will take centre stage.

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