Congress bets on minimum income guarantee to end poverty, come to power

  • Congress promises minimum income guarantee of 6,000/month to 50 million 'poor' families if voted to power after Elections 2019
  • The proposed Nyay scheme aims to provide 72,000 annually to 20% of the poorest families, says Congress president Rahul Gandhi

Gyan Varma
Updated25 Mar 2019
Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The Nyay scheme for minimum income guarantee is estimated to cost  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>3.6 trillion, which is about six times the annual spending on MGNREGS.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi. The Nyay scheme for minimum income guarantee is estimated to cost ₹3.6 trillion, which is about six times the annual spending on MGNREGS.(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

New Delhi: Two weeks before Lok Sabha Elections 2019 kicks off, the Congress on Monday promised minimum income guarantee of 6,000 per month to 50 million “poor” families if voted to power. The proposed Nyay scheme aims to provide 72,000 annually to 20% of the poorest families, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Monday.

Not only does the scheme touch a populist chord, it is estimated to cost 3.6 trillion—which is about six times the annual spending on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Gandhi claimed that the party had been working on the Nyay scheme for the last 4-5 months and held several rounds of consultations with many economists. The first phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections is scheduled to take place on 11 April.

“Congress cannot accept poverty in the country. This is the final assault on poverty. The politics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made two Indias, one is for the poor and the second for the rich. We want one India, where the poor can also live with dignity,” Gandhi said.

The Congress president added that MGNREGS had helped 140 million individuals to come out of poverty, and the Nyay scheme will be the second phase of the poverty eradication attempts by the Congress, as it is expected to help at least 250 million individuals to come out of poverty.

“This scheme will be implemented in a phased manner, there will be a pilot project first and then the entire scheme will be started. This scheme is fiscally prudent, it is doable and all the fiscal calculations have been done,” he said.

Senior Congress leaders said the Nyay scheme will ensure that no Indian family falls below the minimum income threshold of 12,000 per month, and it was just the first economic policy promise of the party for the general elections.

Congress is expected to come out with its manifesto in the first week of April. The party has already promised a nationwide farm loan waiver if it comes to power.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to launch an offensive on social media. “No political party has betrayed India for more than seven decades other than the Congress Party. It gave people of India slogans & very little resources to implement them. However, PM Narendra Modi has already given the poor what Congress promises,” tweeted finance minister Arun Jaitley.

N.R. Bhanumurthy, professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, said implementing such a scheme will be a challenge. “However, the proposed scheme is not unimplementable since direct benefit transfer is getting more and more traction. But we need to see which subsidy programmes need to be curtailed and which need to be scaled up.”

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