Jana Sena Chief Pawan Kalyan has been stressing a “New Age Government” . The Jana Sena Party has repeatedly stressed that “Change” is their objective. Change in Andhra Pradesh would mean the Change of Government and bringing in egalitarian Social and Economic prosperity. It is appropriate time for Jana Sena to consider the new and very practical idea of “Universal Basic Income” (UBI ) for Andhra Pradesh. Status quoits state governments have been averse to change. The idea of Universal Basic Income has been well researched and if implemented, this would be a potent mechanism for reaching the lowest deciles of the population.
Universal Basic Income:
“Universal Basic Income” could comprise of on-going welfare schemes PLUS Universal Basic Income.
1. Universal Basic Income is a scheme to outright transfer a certain amount of money to every citizen on a monthly basis, irrespective of their income. Families who don’t want it can refuse it, as many crores of people have refused Subsidized gas cylinders.
2. Universal Basic Income and other concepts similar to it are being tried out in many countries for which there is great support . In some countries, there is the National Sovereign Fund like in Norway. All the income from oil in Norway goes into the Fund and every year, they give citizens thousands of dollars as profit from oil. This is also a form of Universal Basic Income.
3. “ The Economic Survey of Government of India 2016-2017 mentions that Universal Basic Income (UBI) is feasible in India . Cash is directly deposited in the beneficiaries’ bank account. The beneficiaries will only be required to have a bank account and show residence proof to receive the benefits”.
Traditional political parties make the same old promises : “We will increase pensions and other doles. Make more Caste corporations or give more sheep or chickens or chairmanships to caste leaders “. There is nothing new on offer except dividing castes and promising some petty economic benefits. The time has come to consider bold concepts like Universal Basic Income ‘ in Andhra Pradesh
Gandhiji said “ Wipe every tear from every eye ” based on the principles of universality, unconditionality.” That is the essence of what Universal Basic Income ( UBI ) is !
Let me quote the well-known Tendulkar Committee on Poverty :
“Today, a radical option to realize Gandhiji’s objective presents itself through Universal Basic Income. It is based on the idea that a just society needs to guarantee to each individual a minimum income which they can count on.
The Chief Economic Advisor to Finance Ministry Arvind Subramanian said in an interview to Business Standard .
“The first thing that I will tell Gandhiji ( if he were alive today )is that today government spends a lot of money to help the poor” . It is not clear that the money actually reaches the poor. People fall into poverty due to reasons like drought, poor agriculture & disease. So the safety net of UBI has merit.”
New ideas are always daunting and vested interests work against them. Enlightened leaders through the ages have been thinking of the concept of “ Universal Basic Income “. As early as 1797, Philosopher Thomas Paine proposed “payments made to every person, rich or poor ‘ in his book “ Agrarian Justice”. In 1967, the great African-American leader Martin Luther King proposed a “guaranteed income for everyone . Celebrated economist Prof. Milton Friedman supported the idea of “Universal Basic Income” so that the public gets their money honestly.
The rot in Andhra Pradesh :
Our Andhra government gives great importance to “ Ease of Doing Business” or a certificate from some minor Singapore Minister .There are also lots of photo-ops with various VIPs as if that itself is an achievement. Chief Minister Naidu will visit China frequently to “ study “ China or the USA . All such visits have been flops and a great financial burden on Andhra Treasury . Hundreds of crores are spent on First Class travel and 5 star hotels .
There is terrible poverty in Andhra . Last week in Polavaram, I met a man whose wife died in Kakinada General Hospital this month. The man and his 2 daughters told me in tears that they spent Rs.48,000 for her treatment and yet she died. The 2 girls said they both moved to Rajahmundry to work as labourers to help their sick mother. The man told me that all he gets from the government is only a yearly pension of Rs.12000/- and some rations. . Now Universal Basic Income program will empower such poor people.
The bullies and crooks will always survive. Charles Darwin wrote in 1867 in his Book “ Origin of the Species” : ‘ Only the fittest will survive ‘. He is right that in Andhra today only the cunning and cruel prosper . Thus we must have Universal Basic Income to help the millions of the voiceless in Andhra.
How to implement UBI
A) The first step towards Universal Basic Income in Andhra is to have a census for Andhras living here, born here and even those who live outside,vbut whose parents were born here. Telengana State did this census after its formation.
B) In Andhra, 1 crore families can receive Universal Basic Income. This would include all the poor , Sch.Castes, Tribes, Backward classes and all other people . Even the adult children of government servants can claim Universal Basic Income.
What would UBI in Andhra cost
1 crore families at Rs.10,000 can be covered in the first year and Rs.10,000 crores is enough. If a family gets an additional Rs.10000 per year, it makes a great change.
Telugu Desam Government spends Rs.12000 crores or more a year on Chief minister’s helicopters, flights, feeding politicians, huge expenses at Andhra Bhavan in Delhi, un-necessary security ,travels, photographs , foreign guests,etc. Rs.1000 crores for Social media and advertisements ?
Jana Sena government can stop such wastage and every Andhra family will get Rs.10,000 a year as a start. The government could have earned easily Rs.10,000 crores yearly from sand and illegal mining activity, if they were properly regulated and could have started the Universal Basic Income Scheme.
The time for Universal Basic Income has come and it would fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s dream “Wipe every tear from every eye”.
The Jana Sena Party can consider other such novel schemes to help every Andhrite un-conditionally. That is what Mahatma Gandhi would have wanted!
Victor Hugo ( 1802- 1885) the great French writer said : Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
(Dr Pullarao is a noted economist and politcal commentator from New Delhi)