- 20% of poorest families to get Rs. 72,000 per year, Rahul Gandhi promises
- Under proposed scheme, money to be directly transferred to bank accounts
- The scheme will lift five crore families out of poverty, Mr Gandhi said
Weeks before the national election, Rahul Gandhi has announced what he calls a "historic" minimum income guarantee scheme assuring Rs. 72,000 a year for India's poorest families if the Congress is voted back to power. "The final assault on poverty has begun," he said of the scheme named Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at a recent party conclave in Gujarat.
The money will be directly transferred to the bank accounts of 20 per cent of the poorest in the country. The scheme, said the Congress president, would lift five crore families or 25 crore people out of poverty.
He explained that any family earning less than Rs 12,000 a month will receive Rs 6,000 every month in its bank account.
The acronym NYAY means "justice" in Hindi.
"It is fiscally possible. We have done all the calculations, asked the best economists, they all backed us. We have been studying the scheme for four-five months," Rahul Gandhi said, describing it as an "extremely powerful, dynamic, well-thought-through idea."
Rahul Gandhi announced the scheme on a day the poll process formally took off as candidates for the first round of polling filed their papers. Minutes before the press conference, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's top policy-making body had met to finalise its manifesto.
After the reveal, he asked the media, "Haan, surprise hue na? (so, you look surprised)".
He had announced a framework for the minimum income guarantee scheme in January. The proposed cash handout is seen as modelled loosely on Universal basic income, a concept attracting growing interest around the world. UBI involves people being given a flat lump sum by the state instead of subsidies and social security payments.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley trashed the Congress scheme, calling it chhal-kapat (deceit) and bluff. "Congress has historically believed in political transactions in the name of removing poverty," he said.
NYAY will be the headliner in the Congress campaign for the elections. The party has been attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government over demonetisation and the lack of jobs, which, Rahul Gandhi says, has left millions of Indians struggling.
The government recently implemented the PM Kisan plan that promises Rs 6,000 a year to small and marginal farmers. It aims at 12.5 crore beneficiaries.