Sikkim could become the first state in India to introduce the Universal Basic Income scheme which will benefit the entire population of around 7 Lakh in the Northeast state.
The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), headed by chief minister Pawan Chamling, has decided to include UBI in its election manifesto for the forthcoming state Assembly elections which is due along with the 2019 general elections.
The UBI scheme will enable every single inhabitant of the state irrespective of his/her identity or economic status to get a guaranteed fixed monthly income. The amount will be transferred directly to the bank account by the government of the state every month.
If implemented, the scheme will help stop all other subsidies and allowances which at present are given to people based on various criteria. Having a basic minimum “salary” credited to the account of each citizen in the state will help raise the standard of living and will also ensure that every household is able to meet the bare minimum of day-to-day life.
The Indian Express quoted SDF MP in the Lok Sabha, Prem Das Rai, as saying that: “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.”
“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,” he said.
The SDF parliamentarian emphasised that the scheme is particularly important to the youth of the state as, being a beneficiary, they will have a greater level of independence to opt for the career of their choice without being worried too much about the ensuing income.
Reports said that the Sikkim government is aiming to rely on the surplus revenue generated by the successful implementation of hydropower projects in the state for necessary funds for the scheme. According to a report in the Indian Express, Sikkim produces 2200 MW power which will be increased 3000 MW in the next few years. Since the entire demand of the state is not more than 200-300 MW, the remaining power can be comfortably sold to power trading firms. According to Rai, the profit generated from it should be utilised for the people of the state as it is finally the ‘people’s money’.