Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said his party’s proposed minimum income guarantee scheme – abbreviated “NYAY” – will “remonetise the economy that has been demonetised” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies. In an interview to PTI, Gandhi said this was one of the two objectives of the scheme, the other being to give money to the poorest 20% families in India.
“What the PM has done over the past five years is to remove all money from the economy with failed policies like demonetisation and a poorly executed Gabbar Singh Tax [GST],” Gandhi told the news agency. “Informal sectors have been badly hit.”
On Monday, the Congress president had promised an income support of Rs 72,000 per annum to the poorest 20% families of the country if the party comes to power in the upcoming General Elections. The scheme will be called “Nyoontama Aay Yojana, or NYAY”. The name means “minimum income scheme” in Hindi, while the acronym means “justice”.
Gandhi said the Congress named the scheme “NYAY” because it will give justice to the poor. “He [Narendra Modi] has taken away from the farmers, he has snatched from the small and medium businesses, he’s taken away from the unemployed youth, he has extinguished the savings of mothers and sisters of this country,” said Gandhi. “We want to return to India’s deprived sections what Modiji has snatched from them.”
He said the Congress will not roll out the scheme hastily. “We’re not going to do it the way GST [Goods and Services Tax] was done,” said Gandhi. “We are first going to run a short pilot project to smoothen out any flaws in the implementation process and then roll it out nationwide. We’re also going to set down a robust way of identifying the beneficiaries, so that no deserving family is left out.”
Gandhi said the scheme was not populist but one that will benefit the poor. “Is it only the crony capitalist friends of Mr Modi who are to benefit from government schemes?” he asked. “I’m only asking for fairness, for justice, or ‘nyay’ for India’s poor. There’s nothing populist about that.”
The Congress scion said the scheme was fiscally feasible. He said it will not aggravate India’s fiscal deficit – an apprehension expressed by some. He said the Congress consulted many economists and experts, studied research material on the subject and ran an extensive financial modelling exercise before announcing it.
In February, French economist Thomas Piketty had confirmed that he is helping the Congress with its poll promise. Gandhi had first promised such a scheme in January, and provided details on Monday.