The Congress party's minimum income guarantee scheme will be rolled out in phases and the five crore beneficiary families will be covered in phases, senior leader P Chidambaram said today.
Addressing a press conference in Chennai, the former Finance Minister said "enough" economists and experts in the subject had been consulted and they broadly agreed that India has the capacity to implement the scheme.
Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said the implementation of the scheme is possible, Mr Chidambaram claimed. "Our calculation shows that it will not cross 2 per cent of the GDP, it will be 1.8 per cent of the GDP at any given point of time," he said.
"The scheme will be rolled out in phases and we will cover the five crore families in phases," he said.
The senior party leader said the scheme has to be tested in the field and then rolled out. An expert committee will be set up for its implementation and it will design the scheme at every stage and "we will consult the committee before we move to the next stage," he said.
There is enough data to identify the five crore families, Mr Chidambaram said.
"When MGNREGA, the 100 days employment scheme (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), was implemented in 2009, BJP leader Arun Jaitley had said it was not possible to implement the scheme. Mr Jaitley, however, forgot to say that doubling income for the farmers was not possible when PM Modi announced it," he said.
"I don''t wish to reply to anyone who criticises a programme intended to wipe out poverty," he said answering a question on criticism of the scheme.
"MNREGA eradicated hunger, income scheme will root out poverty." He went on to say that the Congress alone cannot be blamed for not eradicating poverty, adding that the party had taken several measures to root it out and succeeded in several of them as well.
"To eradicate poverty, a minimum income is needed otherwise poverty will not end," he asserted.
Like the Minimum Wages Act which stipulates minimum wages, every family should have a minimum income and the government cannot provide the entire income and that was why the scheme is called the "Minimum Income Support Scheme."
An amount of Rs 72,000 a year, a standard amount Rs 6,000 per month is proposed to be transferred to the account of beneficiaries if the Congress is voted to power in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
He said his party was aware of the challenges involved in implementing the scheme and added that "we will overcome these challenges."
"We will insist that every family should open an account in the name of the woman in the family and the money will be transferred to her account."
Poverty eradication should be accepted as an "aram (dharma in Tamil), it is dharma, it is a moral duty of every government in the 21st century," he said.
To a question, he said, "don't compare PM Kisan Samman scheme with this scheme and trivialise our scheme," he said and alleged the BJP rolled out the farmers plan "for elections."
Had the scheme been important for the BJP-led NDA, Mr Chidambaram asked why it did not implement it in "full five budgets," and rolled it out at the fag end of its tenure.
Mr Chadambaram also indicated that the Congress manifesto is likely to be released on April 2.
On March 25, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said 20 per cent families in poorest of the poor category will be given Rs 72,000 annually as a minimum income. Mr Gandhi had touted the promise as a "groundbreaking" measure to end poverty.
The Congress president had said: "The time for change has come", adding five crore families and 25 crore people will directly benefit from the scheme, he claimed, terming it is a "final assault" to eradicate poverty in the country.