Since independence, India has relied on various methods to tackle poverty –from providing basic public services like health care and education to distributing pensions and subsidies. However, the scale of poverty has weighed heavily on the country, which has lead the Indian government to look at alternative and ambitious ways to overcome it.
The concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) was first introduced in the 2016-17 Economic Survey as a feasible solution to overcome poverty. Since then this revolutionary program has gained renewed attention as economists have vouched for it as a way to overcome technological unemployment and improve upon the existing welfare programs. The idea of UBI is to provide periodic and unconditional cash payments to all citizens.
Two pilot studies were undertaken in West Delhi and Madhya Pradesh to examine the impact of monthly payments on some of the poorest and most vulnerable sections. Preliminary findings showed there have been numerous improvements in health, productivity, and financial stability in the recipients of the cash transfers.
Supporters of the UBI include prominent economists like Guy Standing who emphasize that UBI has far-reaching consequences that include the emancipatory value that extends beyond its monetary value. And contrary to the Indian Public Distribution System (IPDS), which has a higher cost to implement with storage and transportation of subsidized goods, UBI provides no strings attached basic income to the recipients. Critics worry that the UBI structure will undermine the already fragile social security structure and encourage workers to drop out from the labor force.
Though there are supporters and critics of the UBI, the government should proceed with caution and ensure they implement a system that boosts our social security system.
Idea & Concept: Anukrishnan T S, Research Analyst / Faculty
Content Development: Anju Kurian