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Last Updated : Jan 10, 2019 10:48 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Sikkim’s ruling SDF promises basic income ahead of assembly, Lok Sabha polls

Many countries see it as an effective way of reducing poverty. It is also known as guaranteed minimum income

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Sikkim’s ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) has decided to include Universal Basic Income (UBI) in its manifesto for the upcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections, according to a report by The Indian Express.

The state has already begun the process of introducing the unconditional direct cash transfer scheme and is planning to implement the same by 2022. It could become the first state in India to implement UBI.

Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling-led SDF government has been in power since 1994 and also has the distinction of being India's longest serving Chief Minister. The state is heading for simultaneous assembly and general elections in April-May.

While SDF is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Northeastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA), it is expected to contest the elections alone.

The 2017 Economic Survey had advocated implementation of UBI as an alternative to the various social welfare schemes in an effort to reduce poverty.

The Survey said, “UBI is a powerful idea whose time even if not ripe for implementation, is ripe for serious discussion.”

However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in June 2017 said the scheme as proposed in the Economic Survey will not be politically feasible in today's India.

“Our party and Chief Minister Chamling are committed to bringing in UBI. This, we will do within three years of coming back to power,” SDF’s lone Member of Parliament (MP) Prem Das Rai told the newspaper.

“It has been tried in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and tribal belts with fairly large samples and has worked. Basically, it’s an income given to families irrespective what do they do. In Sikkim, it will be for everyone and every household,” he added.

The SDF lawmaker suggested that the funds would come from Sikkim’s successful implementation of hydropower projects which have made it a surplus power generating state.

“The state produces 2,200 MW and the same will rise to 3,000 MW in the next few years. The state’s requirement is only 200-300 MW and the rest goes to power trading firms. When this money comes in, we at SDF feel its people’s money and it should be utilised for them,” he added.

According to the report, the idea is to subsume existing subsidies and allowances by providing a specific amount every month.

Rai told the newspaper that it would 'work well for youngsters' because “it would give freedom to choose their work, it will be more futuristic and it will serve as a future production tool. Young people can look into the future without worrying too much about income.”

The parliamentarian, however, added that it should not be looked at as a 'sop', the report added.

What is UBI?

UBI is a form of social security that puts a fixed amount of money into the pockets of every citizen regardless of their income or employment status.

Many countries see it as an effective way of reducing poverty. It is also known as guaranteed minimum income.

Basic income is currently being experiment in some form across many countries, notably Finland.

Pilot projects in India

India has tested the feasibility through studies and pilot projects in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.

The study, which tested impact of cash transfers when offered along with existing welfare schemes, was held in Delhi between January and December 2011.

Another project was conducted from June 2011 to November 2012 with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Madhya Pradesh, which involved randomly selected households who were given Rs 1,000 per month.

According to reports, the pilot projects yielded positive results.
First Published on Jan 10, 2019 10:48 am
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