Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday made a major bid to woo the poor ahead of the Lok Sabha elections by promising a minimum income guarantee for every poor person if the Congress is voted to power.
"We cannot build a new India while millions of our brothers and sisters suffer the scourge of poverty. If voted to power in 2019, the Congress is committed to a minimum income guarantee for every poor person, to help eradicate poverty and hunger. This is our vision and our promise," he told a farmers rally here.
Gandhi said that no government in the world had taken such a step.
The Congress chief's statement was described by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as "historic" that will mark a turning point in the lives of the poor.
In its original concept, Indian policymakers conducted two important studies testing the impact of UBI through unconditional cash transfers in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi between 2011 and 2012. The experiment gave 100 randomly-selected households 1,000 rupees per month. The money was deposited under the name of the female head of participating households in a bank.
The idea got prominence after Arvind Subramanian, as the then Chief Economic Adviser, pushed it in a big way in the pre-budget Economic Survey of 2017 which included a 40-page chapter on UBI that outlined the three components of the proposed program--universality, unconditionality and agency.
Incidentally on Monday, Subramanian released a report co-authored by him which proposed a quasi-universal basic rural income (QUBRI) of Rs 18,000 per year to each rural household, except those which are "demonstrably well-off", at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.64 lakh crore to tackle agrarian distress.
Speaking at the Raipur meeting, Gandhi also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP alleging that while they had no money to waive loans of farmers, they had no hesitation to cancel loans of industrialists.
He said the new Congress government took a decision in 24 hours to waive farmers' loans in Chhattisgarh, something the BJP could not do in 15 years.
"Whenever we spoke of loan waiver, the BJP said they don't have money. In Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Chouhan said he does not have money. In Delhi, Prime Minister Modi said he does not have money. They don't have money for farmers' loan waiver but they can waive loans of India's 15 richest industrialists," Gandhi said.
Criticising the Prime Minister, Gandhi said Modi was creating an India of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya.
"He is taking money from the Indian Air Force and putting it in the pocket of an industrialist," he said referring to the controversial Rafale deal.
"We do not want two Indias that the BJP is trying to create -- one for the industrialists where they get everything and another for poor farmers which has nothing for them except listening to 'Mann ki Baat'," he said, referring to Modi's monthly radio programme.
The Congress President added that the BJP tried to dilute the Congress' land acquisition bill which guaranteed four times the price of land to farmers compared to the market price and also ensured that if industrialists did not start work in five years, the land would be returned to farmers.