Formal discussions among Opposition leaders on drafting a common minimum programme for the elections are yet to start, but informal parleys based on a document — the People’s Progressive Agenda for India — are on, sources say. The document, prepared by Samruddha Bharat Foundation, has the blessings of almost all Opposition leaders and some of them reportedly participated in its drafting.

Opposition’s campaign

A document on the key themes of the Opposition’s campaign — distress of farmers and unemployment — a copy of which is with BusinessLine, suggests setting up of a farmers’ commission to roll out special packages supporting labour-incentive industries. Sources in the Opposition parties told BusinessLine that several of the suggestions may find a place in the common minimum programme that is likely to be released soon.

The document said the proposed farmers’ commission should strive to ensure that farmers’ incomes are first protected and then augmented. It should also function as a debt-relief commission to arbitrate between banks, insurance companies and farmers. The Commission will also ensure enhanced public investment on agriculture research, rural infrastructure and irrigation.

Pointing out that food processing, leather and footwear, furniture, textiles, apparel and garment industries account 62 per cent of total manufacturing employment, the document recommended special packages for them to meet the growing domestic and export demands. The document also called for synergy between industrial and trade policy as China is vacating many labour-intensive sectors in export-oriented manufacturing. It recommended the Centre to increase financial allocation to cluster development programmes through a new central scheme.

It has also called for framing the National Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme, on the lines of MGNREGA, to address underemployment and low wages in the informal urban sector. The document recommended a national commission on education to allocate resources and monitor programmes. This will help reverse the trend of communalisation of education, it added.

Banking sector

Recommending urgent policy reforms in the banking sector, the document said the country will have to seriously consider the feasibility of a “bad-bank,” which can “quickly clean up the banking system to resume lending.”