Minimum Income: 2 Years Before Rahul Gandhi Promise, Government Said No

Sources in the Congress say they expect the figure to be higher -- between Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,800 a month.

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Minimum Income: 2 Years Before Rahul Gandhi Promise, Government Said No

Arvind Subramanian's Economic Survey had suggested an amount of Rs 630 per head per month (File)


New Delhi: 

The idea of a guaranteed minimum income for the poor across the country announced on Monday by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, has been hailed as a game changer by his party. But what the Congress chief described as a "historic" plan owes its kernel to former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian's Economic Survey of 2016-17.

For the Universal Basic Income - suggested as an alternative to various social welfare schemes to reduce poverty -- the Economic Survey had suggested an amount of Rs 630 per head per month. Sources in the Congress say they expect the figure to be higher -- between Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,800 a month.

States like Telangana and Odisha already have variations of the idea in place, which, though, are confined to farmers. So is the government's populist plan for a new scheme that would see cash transfer to farmers instead of subsidies as a sort of monthly income support.

While the contours of the government's plan are not known, there are expectations that it would be announced on Friday, during the interim budget to be presented months before the Lok Sabha elections.

In June 2017, Union Minister Arun Jaitley had said while he was fully supportive of the Universal Basic Income plan, it was not feasible at the time due to "political limitations".

"I'm fully supportive of his idea (UBI) but realising limitations of Indian politics, I have always expressed to him the fear that once he moots ideas like the UBI, we will be landing in a situation where people will stand up in Parliament and demand continuation of the present subsidies and over and above that let's have the UBI, something that the Budget will not be able to afford," Mr Jaitley had said.

Mr Gandhi's announcement, which promises to be the party's big pitch in the coming general elections and appears carefully planned to upstage the government, has been dismissed by the BJP as a political stunt.

But Congress leaders say they expect to source it from subsidies and the details will appear in the party's election manifesto. "Minimum income is not a dole, we will deliver on it," senior party leader Milind Deora told NDTV.

THE ESI of 2016-17 says 5% of the GDP is being used to fund 950 subsidy programs run by the centre and states.

The idea of a universal basic income for the poor is gaining traction in wealthier countries such as Finland and France. But there have been questions on how India, which has a chunk of the population under the poverty line, would fund it without slipping up on its plan to control fiscal deficit.

Telangana's investment support scheme for farmers, introduced in February last year, is provided from the Telangana government. Under it, each farmer receives Rs 4000 per acre to buy seeds and other essentials.

Under Odisha's income support scheme, farmers receive Rs 10,000 a year. Landless farmers receive 1Rs 2,500 to invest in fisheries and animal husbandry. The scheme, which costs around 5,000 crore, is expected to benefit over 4.5 million families.



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