According to media reports, Sikkim’s ruling party, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), has decided to implement a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to all residents of the state. State Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has decided to include UBI in its manifesto ahead of the state assembly election in 2019 and aims to implement the scheme by 2022.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prem Das Rai, SDF MP in the Lok Sabha, said, “Our party and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, who is the longest serving Chief Minister, are committed to bringing in Universal Basic Income. This, we will do three years of coming back to power in the state”. He further added, “UBI is a scheme that a number of economists have talked about and it works well in developing countries. It has been tested even in India, debated within the Finance Ministry as early as 2017”.
Citing previous successful tests of UBI scheme; Prem Das Rai said, “It has been tried in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and tribal belts with fairly large samples and it has shown it works. Basically, it’s an income given to families irrespective of what do they do. In Sikkim, it will be for everyone and every household.”
He also claimed that the SDF government has already considered the “affordability” of the scheme. Supporting Rai’s statement is the fact that implementation of the hydropower projects by the state has made it a surplus power generating state. “The state produces 2200 MW and it will go up to 3000 MW in the next few years. The state’s requirement is only 200-300 MW and the rest goes to power trading firms. When this money comes in, we as SDF feels its people’s money and it should be utilized for them,” he added.
The SDF appears confident of returning to power as it dominates the political space in the state. Not to forget the fact that SDF is a part of the BJP-led Northeastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
Earlier, The Economic Survey had recommended universal basic income as a method of reducing poverty in the country, according to a NewsX report. The recommendations were tabled in the Parliament in the 2016-17 financial year. According to the Economic Survey, implementing UBI would only cost between four to five percent of India’s GDP.
Mentioning the statement of PM Modi, SDF leader said, “We are sure other states will follow us. As far as I remember even Prime Minister Narendra Modi also talked about Universal Basic Income. Anyway, it’s an idea whose time has come”.
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Notably, The North-East state has a literacy rate of 98 percent and its monthly per capita expenditure in rural areas is Rs 1,444.06 and it is Rs 2,538.11 for urban areas. The BPL percentage has also come down from 41.43% in 1994 to 8.19% in 2011-12. Considering the demographic and economic conditions of the state, if any state of India which can successfully implement the Universal Basic Income scheme, it is Sikkim.
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