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Congress Himachal poll manifesto woos farmers, youths, employees 

Shimla, Nov 1 (IANS) The ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday released its manifesto for the November 9 assembly election, promising interest-free loans to farmers, laptops for students, jobs for youth and special grade pay-scale for all employees.

Releasing the manifesto, Congress leader and Health Minister Kaul Singh said all marginal and small farmers in the state would be extended an interest-free loan of Rs one lakh without following strict conditions.

For the fruits growers, 90 per cent subsidy would be provided on anti-hail nets.

For the youth of the hill state, there will be creation of 1.50 lakh government jobs in its five-year term.

He said if the party returned to power, all categories of employees would be granted a special grade pay-scale.

Wages of the labourers employed under the central government-funded Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the party said, would be hiked to Rs 350 per day from the existing Rs 150.

“We will ask the central government to increase the MGNREGA wages from Rs 150 to Rs 350. If it does not agree, we will provide the hiked wages from our own resources,” said Kaul Singh.

He was accompanied by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and party in-charge and former union minister Sushilkumar Shinde at the manifesto launch ceremony here.

“Our manifesto is a golden link in the chain of colossal progress in Himachal. Once again, we embark on this momentous journey #MissionHP2017,” the Chief Minister said in a tweet.

The Congress government has been distributing 10,000 laptops every year among meritorious students of Class X and XI under the Rajiv Gandhi Digital Students Yojana.

The manifesto promises to provide 35,000 laptops annually to check dropouts from government schools and 15,000 for college students up to graduation.

The minister said the party was in the fray on the basis of its five-year rule that ensured all-around development, with the focus on opening educational and health institutions, especially schools and colleges in far-flung areas, and developing road infrastructure.

The manifesto also promises to put in place a mechanism to monitor corruption cases with the setting up of an anti-corruption grievances commissioner.

It said contractual employees would be regularised in two years in place of five years and pensioners would get a substantial hike in pension. It also promised to enhance social security pensions and people above 75 would get Rs 1,500 old-age pension.

To woo the voters at the grassroots level, the Congress said administrative and financial powers would be decentralised in Panchayati Raj institutions, the village-level third tier of governance, up to panchayats.

For the women, the Congress promised to set up working women hospitals in each of 12 districts and to raise the marriage grant for the daughters of widows to Rs 1 lakh.

For land acquired by the government, a compensation that is four times the market value will be provided.

The votes cast in the Himachal polls will be counted on December 18 along with those in Gujarat.

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