- Rahul Gandhi said income scheme will help those hurt by PM Modi policies.
- Scheme was proposed after intense consultations with experts, he said.
- NYAY won't be rashly implemented like demonetisation and GST, he added.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi today said that his party's election promise of a minimum income guarantee scheme for the poor is aimed at fixing the "damage" caused by the Narendra Modi government to the country's economy through ill-considered initiatives such as demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
"Over the past five years, the Prime Minister has removed money from the economy with failed policies such as demonetisation and the poor execution of the Gabbar Singh Tax. Informal sectors have been badly hit, and there is a need to rectify the situation," Mr Gandhi said in an interview with news agency PTI ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress president claimed that the aim of his proposed scheme was twofold. "The first is to guarantee minimum income to the bottom 20% families, and the second is to remonetise an economy that has been demonetised by Modiji," he told the news agency.
This was the very reason for his proposed programme being christened as the NYAY Scheme, he said. "We have chosen to call this scheme 'justice' because, over the last five years, PM Modi has simply snatched from the poor and given nothing back. He has taken away from farmers, he has snatched from small and medium businesses, he has taken away from unemployed youth... We want to return to India's deprived sections what Modi has snatched from them," PTI quoted Mr Gandhi as saying.
Mr Gandhi said the NYAY Scheme will not be implemented "rashly" like the ruling party's demonetisation and GST initiatives. He also rejected claims that the annual expenditure of Rs 3.6 lakh crore would aggravate India's fiscal deficit, saying that the party had carried out considerable research on the subject and consulted a number of economists before including the plan in its Lok Sabha manifesto.
"It is not a populist measure, as projected by some critics," he said. "Will only PM Modi's crony capitalist friends benefit from government schemes? I'm just seeking fairness and justice for India's poor."
Mr Gandhi, however, did not give a timeline for implementation of the NYAY Scheme. "We're not going to do it the way GST was done. We are first going to run a short pilot project to smoothen out any flaws in the implementation process and then roll it out nationwide. We're also going to set down a robust way of identifying the beneficiaries, so that no deserving family is left out," he told PTI.
"Our goal is to completely eliminate poverty from India," he said, adding that 20-22% of the families in India live in poverty even today.
Under the NYAY Scheme, announced by Mr Gandhi on March 25, the Congress has proposed to transfer Rs 72,000 a year -- or a standard amount of Rs 6,000 a month -- to 20% of India's poorest families if it is voted to power in the upcoming elections. The party president described the proposal as a "final assault on poverty".
(With inputs from PTI)