Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said the party was looking to earmark Rs 3 lakh crore to set the minimum income scheme for the poor rolling and asserted that it was an “eminently doable” idea, The Indian Express reported.
On Monday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had announced that his party would implement the scheme if it was voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.
Chidambaram pointed out that the size of India’s Gross Domestic Product is about Rs 200 lakh crore. “At the nominal rate of growth it will grow by, adding another 20-25 lakh crore of rupees every year,” he said. “In five years, 2019 to 2024, the nominal GDP is likely to cross Rs 270-275 lakh crore. Given that size of the GDP, can we not afford to earmark 1.5% or 2% of that GDP to give a minimum guaranteed income to the very poor?”
The former finance minister said that out of Rs 220-230 lakh crore, Rs 3 lakh crore can be allocated for the project at the uppermost limit. “But since this programme will not be rolled out on one day, it will be rolled out gradually and the states also will take a share of their responsibility, I think it is eminently doable,” he added.
Chidambaram claimed that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had two years to implement the idea as universal basic income was first discussed in the 2016-’17 economic survey.
“Presumably, they were not interested in the idea,” he added. “I can only attribute it to their own callousness and own neglect. This was an idea which should have been developed, adapted, modified, fine-tuned and rolled out as a project or as a scheme. I think the BJP was not committed to alleviate poverty.”
In an interview to Scroll.in on Wednesday, Chidambaram said the Socio-Economic Caste Census data and other databases might be used to identify the beneficiaries of the scheme. “Once the criteria to identify poor households are established, we will use the data to identify the beneficiary households,” he added. “The state governments will be fully involved.”
Asked about how it would be funded, he said the Congress was confident of finding the resources. “Given the size of our GDP [gross domestic product] and the size of the annual budgeted expenditure, we are confident that funding will not be a problem,” he added. “Besides, the scheme will be rolled out as the states come on board with the verified list of beneficiaries in that state.”