The contrast is bound to be made with the Congress’s promise of farm loan waivers.
Relevance : GS Paper III
Theme of the article
India has the capacity and the need for a basic income scheme.
A ripe idea
- The international debate on basic income has advanced considerably in the past five years.
- Experiments have been launched in countries of different levels of per capita income, which include Canada, Finland, Kenya, Namibia, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.S., with plans being drawn up in England, Scotland, South Korea and elsewhere.
India could take the lead
India has the technological capacity, the financial resources and, above all, the need for a simple, transparent scheme to liberate the energies of the masses now mired in economic insecurity, deprivation and degradation.
Feasibility of basic income
- Planning the phased implementation of basic income will be a serious but manageable challenge. It will require goodwill, integrity, knowledge and humility about what will be inevitable mistakes.
- If properly planned, it is possible to introduce a comprehensive scheme even in rural or urban low-income communities, without too much cost.
Basic income vs loan waivers
- Loan waiver will not alter structures and is bad economics.
- If one type of loan could be declared non-repayable, why not others? It would be a dangerous precedent to declare that one type of debt and not others need not be repaid.
- That is why a basic income would be a more equitable and economically rational way of addressing an unfolding rural tragedy.
- The beauty of moving towards a modest basic income would be that all groups would gain.
- It is essential to obtain local cooperation and awareness at the outset, and the backing of key local institutions.
- If the government is to go ahead, it should phase in the scheme gradually, rolling it out from low-income to higher-income communities, after local officials have been trained and prepared.
- The authorities should not select particular types of individuals and give it only to them. For example, if money is given only to women, men will demand a share; it will be divisive.
Basic income would not preclude special additional support for those with special needs, nor be any threat to a progressive welfare state in the long-term. It would merely be an anchor of a 21st century income distribution system.