Congress President Rahul Gandhi with former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former defence minister AK Antony during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

Congress’ Rahul Gandhi Promises Minimum Income Of Rs 12,000 A Month For India’s Poorest

The Congress pledged to guarantee a minimum income of Rs 12,000 a month if voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections due in less than two months. The party estimates that five crore families earn less than that, and the scheme will make up the difference.

Dubbing it “the world’s largest minimum income scheme”, party President Rahul Gandhi said the Nyunatam Aay Yojana, or NYAY, is aimed at covering close to 25 crore individuals. The scheme will transfer up to Rs 72,000 into the accounts of poor households annually, he said after a party meeting to give final shape to the Congress manifesto.

Gandhi did not give details on how the party arrived at the Rs 72,000 figure or whether it would change household to household but said the Congress has studied the fiscal implications and consulted renowned economists and experts before finalising the scheme.

“[The] final assault on poverty has begun. We will wipe out poverty from the country,” he said.

Later, Congress leader Rajeev Gowda explained the numbers in a tweet. “The poorest 20 percent of India's families have an average income of Rs 6,000 per month. NYAY will provide them an unconditional transfer of Rs 6,000 per month totalling to Rs 72,000 per year.”

That suggests the proposal would cost the exchequer up to Rs 3.6 lakh crore per annum.

Praveen Chakravarty, chairperson of the party’s data analytics department, said on social media that the income transfer will be fixed at Rs 72,000 per household per year.

  • Every poor family in the bottom 20 percent will get the same, uniform amount of Rs 72,000 a year.
  • Beneficiary identification at every decile is possible.
  • This will be a federal scheme with state participation.
  • It will be rolled out in phases.

While the Congress party has not yet spelled out how they propose to finance and administer such a scheme, party leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said on twitter that they “have consulted economists, this is doable, and we will adhere to fiscal discipline”.

The Congress had first announced its intention of offering a minimum income guarantee scheme in January. It had said then that it may review and terminate certain demerit subsidies, but didn’t specify which ones. Chidambaram said in an interview to BloombergQuint then “we will ask ourselves in May or June, which are the schemes that have outlived their utility. And whichever are the ones that continue to deliver the outcomes, those schemes will continue".

Also read: Congress Beats BJP To Income Guarantee Plan But Leaves Math To Manifesto

That was followed by the incumbent BJP-led government announcing a farm income support scheme - PM Kisan - in the union budget presented in parliament on Feb. 1. As per recent data, the government has already transferred two installments of Rs 2,000 each to 2.7 crore farmers. PM Kisan intends to pay Rs 6,000 per year ( in three equal installments) to over 12 crore small and marginal farmers. The scheme’s estimated cost for financial year 2019-20 is Rs 75,000 crore.

Also read: How Farm Loan Waiver Data Helped Modi Roll Out PM Kisan In Eight Days

The world’s largest democracy is set to vote the next government into power with the final results being announced on May 23. The Congress is leading the opposition’s challenge against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party on jobs, agrarian distress and poverty. Modi, beside a host of schemes, is banking on national security, with the air strikes on a terror camp Pakistan increasing his popularity.

Also read: Six Charts Explain How Balakot Strikes Helped Boost Modi’s Popularity