New Delhi: 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, while reaching out to labour representatives to seek their feedback for the party manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi at a party meet in New Delhi . File pic
Gandhi was interacting with labour representatives from the organised and unorganised sectors and street vendors.
He also met aspirants of civil services examination and told them that he will take up their concerns about change in the pattern of the examination. He also attended an event hosted by the Flag Foundation of India.
Gandhi told the labour representatives 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, he 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 unorganised sector, increase in pension and protection for women workers.
Gandhi later met civil service aspirants who had a grievance concerning new norms in the examination.
Following the meeting, his office issued a statement saying he will take up their concerns.
The Union Public Service Commission in 2013 excluded foreign languages from its curriculum. The move has affected thousands of students who opted for different languages as subjects in the exam.
"Rahul Gandhi agreed with the students and said all aspects should have been taken into account before making a change. He said he will do everything he can on this issue," the statement said.
The civil service aspirants also demanded that they be given age relaxation and a chance for three fresh attempts.
At the Flag Foundation of India function - held on the 66th death anniversday of Mahatma Gandhi - at the India Gate lawns, Gandhi said the tricolour was in his heart.