Rahul Gandhi guarantees minimum income to every poor

Asserting that he gets done what he says, Rahul added that the minimum income guarantee would be implemented across the country.

WITH Lok Sabha elections just a few months away, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced if voted to power, his government would provide a “minimum income guarantee to every poor person” in the country.

Addressing a large gathering at the Kisan Abhaar rally in Atal Nagar, Rahul said, “It is a historic decision. No government anywhere in the world has taken such a decision. Only the Congress can do it. The Congress party has decided that immediately after winning the 2019 elections, the government will provide a guarantee for minimum income to every poor. This means there will be a minimum income in the bank account of every poor Indian. This means that nobody in India will stay hungry, or will be poor.”

The idea of a universal basic income has been discussed in policy circles in India since former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian highlighted it in the Economic Survey two years ago. He had undertaken an elaborate study and suggested that such a scheme — costing about 4.5-5% of the GDP — can be implemented in India were it to replace all existing subsidies.

On Monday, much of Rahul’s speech revolved around the idea of India — one of his party, and the other of the BJP. “One Hindustan is of Narendra Modi, is of Anil Ambani, of Nirav Modi, of Mehul Choksi, of Vijay Mallya. They keep you standing in line during notebandi. They steal your money and put it in the pockets of Anil Ambani. They tell you that the country needs defence, but take money from the Air Force and give it to Anil Ambani. So Congress has taken a historic decision. And I am saying this not just to the people of Chhattisgarh, but to the poor people of India. Whatever I say, I do. Whether it is loan waivers, whether it is the question of giving land back to farmers, whether it is about giving them the right price. I complete the promises I make,” he said.

The Congress president said, “We gave a guarantee under MNREGA for 100 days of work, gave the right to food (security). We gave the right to information, which as a guarantee, opened the doors of the bureaucracy. Now, a minimum income guarantee.”

Rahul also gave away symbolic loan waiver certificates to farmers from Chhattisgarh. He praised the Bhupesh Baghel-led state government for waiving short term loans of farmers worth Rs 6,000 crores from cooperative and government banks, setting the price of paddy procurement at Rs 2,500, and its decision to return land in Bastar earlier acquired for a Tata Project which failed to get off the ground. “What the BJP couldn’t do in 15 years, the Congress did in two days.”

Rahul said there was no shortage of money. “Narendra Modi and the BJP want to make two Hindustans. One Hindustan of the Rafale scam, of Anil Ambani, of Mehul Choksi. In that Hindustan, whatever you want, you can get. You want the Rafale contract? You will get it. You want land, you will get that. You want water, you will get that too. The other Hindustan is the Hindustan of the poor. Of the farmers and the youth. In that you will get thing. In that you can only listen to Mann ki Baat. 24 hours Mann ki Baat, Man ki Baat, Man ki Baat,” he said.

The Congress president, however, did not offer any details on the minimum income guarantee, or the definition of poor. While the individual income-tax exemption limit in India is Rs 2.5 lakh, in April 2009, the Arjun Sengupta Committee had said about 836 million people, or 77% of India’s population were living on less than Rs 20 per day at the end of 2004-05.

A committee headed by Suresh Tendulkar had said that India’s combined rural-urban poverty headcount ratio in 2004-05 stood at 37.2%, with the poverty line at Rs 447 in rural areas and at Rs 579 in urban areas based on consumption expenditure.

PTI adds: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also termed as “historic” Gandhi’s announcement, saying it will mark a turning point in the lives of the downtrodden.

The announcement comes four days ahead of the interim budget to be presented by the Narendra Modi government before the Lok Sabha polls due before June this year.

It also follows the NDA government’s decision to give 10 per cent quota to the economically backward section in the general category and a likely announcement of a relief package for farmers grappling with falling prices of their crops and to tackle distress in the farm sector.

Asserting that he gets done what he says, Rahul added that the minimum income guarantee would be implemented across the country.

The BJP-led Union government wrote off Rs 3.5 lakh crore worth of loans of 15 big industrialists but “did not waive the loans of the country’s farmers”, he alleged.

Garibi Hatao (“Remove Poverty”) was the theme and slogan of Indira Gandhi’s campaign for the 1971 Lok Sabha elections which was won by the Congress under her leadership giving her a second term as the prime minister.

“People of India know the reality of Congress and have seen through its games,” BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“Gandhi’s claim to provide minimum income guarantee for the poor is like hundreds of Congress announcements which are not meant to be implemented. His party remained in power for 58 years at the Centre and made thousands of announcement. If they had been implemented, the face of the country, including of the poor, would have been different,” Prasad said.

In a series of tweets, Chidambaram, a former Union finance and home minister, said 140 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2004 and 2014, when the Congress-led UPA was in power.

“Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s announcement at the farmers’ rally in Chhattisgarh is historic and will mark a turning point in the lives of the poor,” he said.

Chidambaram said the principle of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been discussed extensively in the last two years and the time has come to adapt the principle to the country’s situation and the needs and implement the same for the poor.

“We will explain our plan in the Congress Manifesto,” he said. Chidambaram is the chairman of Manifesto Committee of the Congress for the 2019 polls.

The Congress leader said “the poor in India have the first charge on the resources of the country and the party will find the resources to implement the promise of Rahul Gandhi”.
“140 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. Now we should make a determined effort to wipe out poverty in India,” he added.

Source: Financial Express

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