Wed, Jan 30, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Opposition party vows basic wage for votes by poor

ELECTION PROMISES:A new India cannot be built while millions are poor, Congress Pary President Rahul Gandhi tweeted ahead of polls due by May

Bloomberg

Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a news conference at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi, India, on Dec. 11 last year.

Photo: Reuters

India’s main opposition Congress Party promised to implement a minimum income guarantee program for the poor if it triumphs in the nation’s general election this year.

“We cannot build a new India while millions of our brothers and sisters suffer the scourge of poverty,” Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter on Monday. “If voted to power in 2019, the Congress is committed to a Minimum Income Guarantee for every poor person, to help eradicate poverty & hunger.”

The pledge comes as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration implements a raft of populist measures ahead of the polls due by May, including an extension of government job and education placement quotas to millions of people.

In the works is another plan to transfer about US$9.8 billion directly to farmers and ease their financial stress instead of offering subsidies, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

Senior Congress leader and former Indian minister of finance Palaniappan Chidambaram said that the nationwide program would be an adaptation of a universal basic income (UBI) scheme.

“It is not UBI,” Chidambaram said in an interview with Bloomberg Quint yesterday. “Under UBI the same amount of money is given to everyone, including you and me. This minimum income guarantee is progressive.”

Some of the “demerit subsidies” would be terminated to make fiscal space for such a program, he said.

A quasi UBI program for 75 percent of the rural population could cost about 2.64 trillion rupees (US$37.16 billion), or 1.3 percent of GDP, former chief economic adviser to the government of India Arvind Subramanian and others wrote in an article.

The Congress Party had previously pledged to write off farmer loans ahead of state elections last month, and followed through on its promise in three states where it won.

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