CONGRESS PRESIDENT Rahul Gandhi Monday said if his party was voted to power, its government would roll out a minimum income scheme guaranteeing Rs 72,000 a year to the bottom most or poorest 20 per cent of households. The scheme will likely entail an expenditure of Rs 3,60,000 crore a year given that there are roughly 25 crore households, with five crore in the ‘poorest’ category.
After a meeting of the Congress Working Committee which approved the draft manifesto, Rahul said the Nyunatam Aay Yojana (Nyay) scheme was a “ground breaking idea’ and would mark the beginning of the final assault on poverty.
“Five crore families and 25 crore people will directly benefit (from Nyay). No family in India should earn below Rs 12,000 a month. That, we believe, should be the line of minimum income,” Rahul said. It would be a “fiscally prudent” scheme, he added.
Former Finance Minister and head of the Manifesto Committee P Chidambaram said the party had consulted economists. “…this is doable, and we will adhere to fiscal discipline.” To a question on the cost — estimated to be 1.5 per cent of GDP — Nyay would impose on the exchequer, he said, “This is a manifesto promise. Details will be in the scheme approved by government.”
Explained | Assured income, balance sheet
The Congress manifesto is likely to be released on April 2. Sources in the party said the manifesto would include a road map for job creation in the small and medium enterprises sector, promise liberal financing mechanisms for the MSME sector to spur job growth, an urban employment guarantee scheme, loan waiver for agricultural sector, farm sector modernisation, setting up of a large number of Kendriya Vidyalayas and new universities besides the already announced Right to Healthcare law.
“Twenty per cent of the poorest of the poor will be given Rs 72,000 every year. It will be deposited into their bank accounts. If Narendra Modi can give money to the richest of the country, then the Congress party can give money to the poorest of the poor. It is my promise there will be NYAY. The scheme will be rolled out in a phased manner,” he said.
Praveen Chakravarty, head of Congress’ data analytics department, said, “There is a lot of work we have done over the last three months. We have looked at India’s income distribution data, and then arrived at the numbers.” The absolute poor in India, he said, are earning Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 today. “We are saying the minimum that they should earn is Rs 12,000 a month…The Minimum Income Guarantee is an idea for a new social contract,” he said.
Asked about the financial implications, he said “an expert committee will be formed as soon as the Congress comes to power. We will roll it out in phases…we will take the states along with us…how will be budget math work? A lot of you are focused only on the expenditure side now…we are going to put money in the hands of the people…It is not notebandi, it is note wapsi. It is remonetisation…the moment you remonetise India’s economy, it immediately kickstarts the economic engine, it leads to economic growth, it leads to increased revenues. So the revenues will go up immediately.”