New Delhi, Jan 30 IANS | 10 months ago

Seventy crore Indians - who are above poverty line but continue to be vulnerable - should be brought into the "middle class" in the next 5-10 years, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said Thursday.

Gandhi was interacting with labour representatives from the organised and unorganised sectors and street vendors to seek their feedback for the Congress party manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

He said he will push for the clearance of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill in the extended winter session of parliament next month.

Promising that he will also push for the implementation of recommendations to empower the denotified and nomadic tribes in India, Gandhi said the United Progressive Alliance government has enacted several rights-based legislations which have provided the vulnerable sections a platform to seek better remuneration.

Referring to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), he said it provided a "concrete surface" to the poor sections and ended uncertainty related to income in their lives.

Gandhi, in his address at the All India Congress Committee meeting earlier this month, had said a new class of about 70 crore people was emerging which was "just above the poverty line but below the middle class".

He said people in this category include labourers, security guards and painters, and they go down the poverty line the moment someone falls ill in their family and were struggling hard to provide education to their children.

Gandhi, in his interaction Thursday, said the 70 crore people "build the country" and the aim should be to bring them in the middle class in the next "5-10 years".

"The 70 crore people... if we want to put them in the middle class, that is what the aim should be... we have to provide a concrete surface beneath their feet. In 5-10 years, they should feel they are in the middle class," he said.

The 70 crore people should also be made aware of their rights in education and health, he said.

Gandhi said the party will take the voice of labourers and workers to the state assemblies and Lok Sabha.

The participants gave their suggestions, including creating a national commission for labour, uniform wages to Anganwadi workers, social security for labourers in the unorganized sector, increase in pension and protection for women workers.

(Posted on 30-01-2014)

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