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India mulls paying basic income to all citizens

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After demonitisation, the Narendra Modi government is considering the idea of a Universal Basic Income for all its citizens, according to one of the leading advocates of the scheme.

In simple words, universal basic income is a set amount of money paid by the state to all its citizens, irrespective of their employment status. The idea is to provide a boost to the economy and improve the quality of life of its citizens. Business Insider quoted Professor Guy Standing, an economist and co-founder of advocate group Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) in 1986, that the Indian government will release a report in January stating the UBI idea to be “feasible” and “basically the way forward.”

In India, Universal Basic Income has been tried in three pilot schemes, two in Madhya Pradesh, and one in West Delhi, with positive results. According to the 2014 government report, India, with an estimated population of 1.3 billion people, has a growing economy but around 29.5 per cent of people live in poverty, especially in the rural areas.

So, is India ready for a nation-wide roll-out?

Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic advisor confirmed in October that the annual economic survey would discuss UBI. “The government spends a lot of money on schemes to help the poor. It is not clear that the money actually reaches the poor. So the question is whether the UBI is a more effective way of reaching the poor that the current schemes that government employs,” he was quoted in The Indian Express.

In recent times, the Government of Finland became the first European country to roll out UBI to 2,000 unemployed people.

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