Universal basic income/ guaranteed minimum income: India

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1938-2017, 2022

Cherupreet Kaur, Rahul launches ‘MIG-19’ strike, Cong cheers, January 29, 2019: The Times of India

Universal basic income/ guaranteed minimum income in India, 1938-2017, 2022
From: Cherupreet Kaur, Rahul launches ‘MIG-19’ strike, Cong cheers, January 29, 2019: The Times of India

The buzz about the government’s plan to announce the universal basic income in the interim budget gained traction after the Centre’s refusal to rule out the possibility of Piyush Goyal restricting himself to an interim budget on Friday: something which led many to think Rahul’s dramatic promise could be a pre-emptive strike mean to steal the government’s “populist thunder”.

However, the initial response of official sources suggested that the promise of guaranteed minimum income may not be part of the February 1 package. Even as BJP dismissed Rahul’s announcement as a gimmick, official sources said Congress had borrowed the idea from the Economic Survey of 2016-17. “It has since remained on the table because you cannot find resources for a guaranteed income support without doing away with subsidies on food, fertilisers and kerosene. A rollback of government assistance on healthcare, education and employment generation will also become necessary. Else, the fiscal deficit will be in double digits, sparking runaway inflation. Is Congress ready for that?” asked a senior government functionary, adding that Congress needed to spell out where it was going to find resources from. Economists seemed to share the concern of repercussions for fiscal deficit and negative spinoffs for inflation.

“They have so far followed a rights-based approach. What they are talking now marks a negation of that stance,” one of them said. Farm distress and anger over jobs are two dominant themes that Rahul has been flagging and the latest statement is aimed at throwing the challenge to Modi.

During its stint, the Congress-led UPA had enacted the employment guarantee law, promising 100 days employment to the poor. “Now, Congress has decided to implement this (guaranteed minimum income) scheme after its government comes to power at the Centre in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” Rahul said.

Rahul’s comments were immediately lapped up by his party colleagues. “The poor of India have the first charge on the resources of the country. Congress will find the resources to implement the promise of Rahul Gandhi,” Chidambaram tweeted.

“Assuring minimum guaranteed income will result in reducing the growing income disparity. This will put the poor in the country at the centre of socio-economic policies and governance of the country,” said Bhalchandra Mungekar, economist and member of the Congress manifesto committee. Rahul said Congress walked the talk, pointing out how the Congress government in Chhattisgarh waived shortterm farm loans within a day of assuming office when the party had promised to waive agri loans within 10 days of coming to power.

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