Universal Basic Income

“In the modern world, everybody should have the opportunity to work and to thrive. Most countries can afford to make sure that everybody has their basic needs covered,” has recently been stated by Richard Charles Branson, an English business magnate, investor and philanthropist, who founded the Virgin Group that controls more than 400 companies; in support of Universal Basic Income; the idea earlier supported by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, SpaceX CEO & product architect of Tesla Elon Musk, and Slack CEO & co-founder of the photo sharing website Flickr Stewart Butterfield.


Universal Basic Income “(UBI) is a powerful idea whose time even if not ripe for implementation is ripe for serious discussion”, is an alternative to subsidies and various social welfare schemes for poverty alleviation, as advocated by the Economic Survey 2016-17, tabled by finance minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament on Tuesday 31 January 2017 mentioning therein that, “The UBI must be embraced in a deliberate, phased manner as it allows reform to occur incrementally — weighing the costs and benefits at every step”. The Survey points out that the two prerequisites for a successful UBI are:

  • Functional JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile) system as it ensures that the cash transfer goes directly into the account of a beneficiary and
  • Centre-State negotiations on cost sharing for the programme

A universal basic income, like constitutional rights, would be unconditional and universal, a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, independent of any other income:

  • Universal Basic Income Scheme is an alternative to plethora of state subsidies for poverty alleviation.
  • It is a form of social security paid to individuals, not households, and it is paid to everyone. That’s how it becomes universal.
  • It can be paid in kind, such as food or services, or in vouchers or can be a direct transfer into bank accounts to help reduce leakage.
  • The government could offer about 100 rupees a month, and only to families below the poverty line. Approximately 20 million families in India will get the benefit it the scheme is implemented in the Budget.
  • It is paid at regular intervals, say monthly, not as a one-off grant.

In India over 200 million people still below the poverty line, a universal basic income could be an answer to provide immediate relief to improve their lives, ensuring that all citizens have the right to a minimum income as a long-term solution to reduce poverty.

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