Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday announced that his party would ensure that every poor person in the country receives minimum income if it returns to power after the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi, who addressed a public rally in Naya Raipur in Chhattisgarh, distributed symbolic loan waiver certificates to farmers, PTI reported. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and senior Congress leader PL Punia were among those present at the event. The party had waived loans for farmers from cooperative and state-run banks worth above Rs 6,100 crore after coming to power in the state in December.
“The Congress has decided to take a historic decision...” Gandhi said at the Kisaan Abhaar Sammelan. “The Congress-led government is going to give minimum income guarantee. This means, each poor person in India will have minimum income. This means there will be no hungry, poor people in India.”
In a tweet, Gandhi said a new India cannot be built “while millions of our brothers and sisters suffer the scourge of poverty”.
The Congress president also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to create two Indias – “one of the Rafale scam, Anil Ambani, Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and the other of the poor farmers”.
Meanwhile, former Union finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram hailed Gandhi’s decision as historic and said it “will mark a turning point in the lives of the poor”.
“The principle of Universal Basic Income has been discussed extensively in the last two years,” he added. “The time has come to adapt the principle to our situation and our needs and implement the same for the poor. We will explain our plan in the Congress manifesto.”
Chidambaram said 140 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2004 and 2014 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. “Now we should make a determined effort to wipe out poverty in India,” he added. “The poor of India have the first charge on the resources of the country. Congress will find the resources to implement the promise of Rahul Gandhi.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party said Gandhi’s decision was like “hundreds of other announcements” made by the Opposition party that were not meant to be implemented, PTI reported.
“The people of India know the reality of the Congress and have seen through its games,” said Union minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. “His [Rahul Gandhi] party remained in power for 58 years at the Centre and made thousands of announcements. If they had been implemented, the face of the country, including that of the poor, would have been different.”
The minister said the announcement had been made “without any preparation or provision for funding or a proper agenda”.