Rahul pre-empts Modi in announcing universal basic income

There will be no fund for guaranteed income support without withdrawing subsidies on food, fertilisers and kerosene and rolling back government assistance on healthcare, education and employment, said a government functionary

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Raipur: Indian National Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced Monday that his party would ensure minimum income guarantee for every poor in the country if it returns to power after the Lok Sabha election due in April-May.

The INC president accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP of trying to create two Indias — “one of the Rafale scam, Anil Ambani, Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and the other of the poor farmers”.

Gandhi made the remarks at the ‘Kisaan Abhaar Sammelan’ held here to express gratitude to Chhattisgarh’s people, particularly farmers, for voting the party to power in the State after a gap of 15 years.

“The Congress has decided to take a historic decision… The Congress-led government is going to give a minimum income guarantee. This means each poor person in India will have a minimum income. This means there will be no hungry, poor people in India,” Gandhi said. He also distributed loan waiver certificates to some of the beneficiary farmers during the function.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and senior Congress leader PL Punia were among those present at the event. The INC had posted a massive victory in last year’s state Assembly polls, winning 68 of the total 90 seats.

Ahead of the Assembly polls, Gandhi had assured to waive farm loans if his party was voted to power in the State.

BJP govt was planning minimum income for all, but…

Rahul Gandhi made this promise when media was speculating that a universal basic income act was in the pipelines among the future plans of the Narendra Modi government. Now, in response to the INC president’s poll promise, the BJP is saying there isn’t enough money to turn the promised sop into a reality.

There are “hundreds of other announcements” that are not meant to be implemented, the BJP said, reacting to Gandhi’s poll pitch.

“The people of India know the reality of the Congress and have seen through its games,” said Union Minister of Law Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Prasad reminded the people that the INC’s promise of farm loan waivers during the election campaigns of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh was not honoured. The promise of minimum income for all was the “same kind of sop”, Prasad, who is also a senior office bearer of the ruling BJP, said.

However, the fact is that the BJP government was planning it, too. Towards the end of 2018, a section of the media had reported, “The Modi government is preparing to introduce a universal basic income (UBI) scheme before next year’s general election,” adding that “the government will transfer a certain amount into the bank accounts of citizens who are unable to earn an income” (India Today).

Days before that, The Economic Times actually prescribed this to the Modi government to fight the INC’s populism of promise of farm loan waiver:

universal basic income

“It has since remained on the table because you cannot find resources for 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 become necessary, too. Else, the fiscal deficit will be in double digits, sparking runaway inflation. Is the Congress ready for that?” questioned a government functionary, as reported by The Times of India.

Sirf News will deal with the issues in implementing the universal basic income scheme in a separate post.