Following Congress president Rahul Gandhi's announcement of a Rs 72,000/year minimum income guarantee promise for the weakest 20% of India's poor families, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley issued a blog post where he argued that the Modi government was already providing more than the Congress was promising, presenting facts and figures of ongoing schemes. In comparison, Rahul Gandhi's explanation of the 'historic' NYAY income guarantee scheme was sketchy at best, and required a clarification from P Chidambaram who tweeted later to say that it would entail a Rs 6,000 per month direct transfer to eligible families, and not, as Rahul Gandhi had said, a top-up on existing income to bring it to Rs 12,000/month.
The BJP's allegation, as voiced by Ram Madhav, was effectively along the lines 'it's easy to make promises when you know you're losing', and now, an analysis by Republic TV has revealed that there may also be other unintended consequences of the Congress' Minimum Income Guarantee scheme that may, in fact, have a detrimental effect on India's poor:
On the Ayushman Bharat scheme: The world's biggest healthcare scheme covers about 8.03 crore rural and 2.33 urban families, with the selection criteria being based on the 2011 socio-economic caste census. Should the Congress implement its scheme, about half of these families are at risk of falling out of the medical safety net which includes over 1500 medical procedures to the insured poor.
On the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana: Under the flagship programme to provide housing for the rural poor, each family below the poverty line (BPL) gets Rs 1.2 lakh subsidy. Almost 2 crore families have availed of this, and the remaining 1 crore families may not be able to if the Congress' scheme is implemented.
On the National Social Assistance Program (NSAP) for social security for the elderly: The scheme is an omnibus for elderly citizens with 5 sub-schemes - the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS), Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS), Annapurna Scheme. All these five schemes are BPL-oriented. As per the most recent figures, the NSAP has 3.21 crores beneficiaries with a total budgetary allocation of Rs. 9,975 crore. How this would be reconciled with the Congress NYAY remains unanswered.
On the Saubhagya electrification scheme: The government had launched the Saubhagya scheme in September 2017, following which as many as 50.4 lakh BPL households were provided free electricity connections in the next '18 fiscal under various government schemes, as per power minister RK Singh. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh were the largest beneficiaries on this account, receiving 12.9 lakh, 10.5 lakh and 8.5 lakh such connections, respectively. This is the second-largest instance of free BPL power connections dispensed in the last ten years. Those above the poverty line pay Rs 500 per connection - something that beneficiaries of the minimum guarantee may have to start doing.
On the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan's basic sanitation scheme: The incentive amount provided under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) to BPL families is up to Rs.12,000 (Rs 9,000 from the Centre, Rs 3,000 from the state) for the construction of one toilet. Since its launch in 2014, over 9 crore toilets have been built, mainly in BPL households, with a layout of Rs 1.08 lakh crore. If the Minimum Income Guarantee scheme is implemented, those currently eligible may have to forego this subsidy, and that doesn't account for the social and sanitation benefits that may be lost.