As the Lok Sabha elections approach, the Congress appeared to have shed its inhibitions about the universal basic income idea mooted by the Modi government in 2017.
The then Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian had mooted the Universal Basic Income idea in the Economic Survey for 2016-17 that was presented to Parliament on January 31, 2017.
The Congress had then expressed apprehension over the idea and contended that it may affect the schemes launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-led UPA government, including the MGNREGA, midday meals scheme, sarva shiksha abhiyan, right to food and fertiliser subsidies.
However, addressing a rally in Chhattisgarh on Monday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced his plans to implement a minimum income guarantee to every individual in the country if his party is voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.
“This will be an unprecedented step, which has not been ever taken in any other country of the world and we are going to do it in India after the Congress government comes to power at the Centre in 2019,” Rahul said addressing a rally in Naya Raipur.
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram termed Rahul's announcement as “historic” and a “turning point in the lives of the poor”. He said the details of the plan will be explained in the Congress manifesto.
“The principle of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been discussed extensively in the last two years. The time has come to adapt the principle to our situation and our needs and implement the same for the poor,” said Chidambaram, who also chairs the AICC's Manifesto Committee.
He said 140 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2004 and 2014 and now the Congress should make a determined effort to wipe out poverty in India.
Subramanian, who hanged his boots at Chief Economic Advisor last year, who had proposed a quasi-universal basic rural income (QUBRI) in a research paper last week, appeared to welcome the Congress President's announcement.
“From Sikkim, Telangana, Odisha, our new rural income proposal (QUBRI), & now Congress' minimum income guarantee, India crucible of exciting experimentation on Universal Basic Income (UBI),” Subramanian said. Sikkim, Telangana and Odisha have been implementing a version UBI as a state government initiative to counter agrarian distress.