Congress urges PM to implement Nyay for poor amid Covid-19 crisis
The government’s think-tank, NITI Aayog, had dismissed the proposed move, declaring that India neither had the kind of fiscal bandwidth, nor the complete data needed to implement such an ambitious scheme.Updated: Mar 25, 2020 20:55 IST
The Congress on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement ‘Nyuntam Aay Yojana’ (NYAY), a minimum income guarantee scheme proposed by the party as a promise ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as an immediate economic measure for the poor and daily-wage earners to tide over the ongoing crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. PM Modi on Tuesday evening announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The PM also announced an allocation of Rs 15,000 crore to strengthen healthcare infrastructure to combat the Covid-19 outbreak.
On March 25, the then Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, had promised that 20% of the poorest families in the country would get Rs 72,000 each annually under the scheme if the party win the parliamentary elections.
The scheme was envisaged to cover five crore families and benefit nearly 25 crore people and each family would earn at least Rs 12,000 every month. The total estimated expenditures of the scheme were around Rs 3.5 lakh crore. The basic arithmetic of the NYAY scheme, as explained by Gandhi, is if a family makes Rs 6,000, the government will chip in with another Rs 6,000, raising the monthly income to Rs 12,000.
“While the government waits to announce an economic package, experts are already voicing their opinion for the NYAY scheme proposed by Congress last year. The scheme will guarantee a minimum income to the poor aiding them in these times of crisis,” the party said on its official Twitter handle.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also tweeted, “Dear PM, need of the hour is to implement forthwith “Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme” [NYAY] mooted by Rahulji & Congress.”
“Please transfer Rs 7,500 to every Jan Dhan A/C, PM Kisan A/C; every Pension A/C to tide over nutrition needs of 21 days & give free PDS ration,” he said in another tweet.
“How will daily wagers, workers in small businesses survive for 21 days?” asked Surjewala.
The government’s think-tank, NITI Aayog, had dismissed the proposed move, declaring that India neither had the kind of fiscal bandwidth, nor the complete data needed to implement such an ambitious scheme.
The scheme was widely seen as a variant of universal basic income (UBI), a concept that entitles families to a certain threshold sum of money, irrespective of whether they work or not.
UBI made a debut in the official discourse when the then chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, proposed it in the 2016-17 Economic Survey. But the Modi government did not pursue it.
The PM’s lockdown move was backed by several Congress leaders, including chief ministers of Punjab (Captain Amarinder Singh), Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot), Chhattisgarh (Bhupesh Baghel) and former finance minister P Chidambaram.
On Wednesday, Chidambarm described the lockdown move as a “watershed moment” in the battle against Covid-19 and called Modi as the commander and the people as “foot soldiers”.
Chidambaram also suggested a 10-point plan to put money in the bank accounts of the poor and the marginalised, including farmers and labourers, and demanded a cut in Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates by 5% on all wage goods, essential goods and services, and all goods of mass consumption from April 1 to June 30.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of a nationwide 21-day lockdown is a watershed moment in the battle against Covid-19. We should put behind us the debates that took place before March 24 and look upon the nationwide lockdown as the beginning of a new battle in which the people are the foot soldiers and the PM is the Commander,” he said.
“We owe a duty to extend our total support to the Prime Minister and the central and state governments,” the Congress leader added.
Chidambaram also urged people to stay home, saying “STAYHOMEINDIA is a great rally cry”.
He also called for the protection of the current employment and wages, besides putting money into the hands of the poor and the marginalised.
“Here is a 10-point plan [without too much elaboration], which is intended to put cash and food immediately in the hands of the poor and the vulnerable. It is placed for the consideration of the government and for an immediate announcement of relief,” the former finance minister said.
Chidambaram called for doubling the amount paid/payable under PM-KISAN to Rs 12,000 and transfer the additional amount immediately to the bank account of each beneficiary.
For tenant farmers, he called for bringing them under PM-KISAN after taking the lists from the state governments and transfer Rs 12,000 (in two installments) to the bank account of each tenant farmer.
He also demanded to transfer Rs 3,000 into bank accounts of registered Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers.
Chidambaram demanded transfer of Rs 6,000 into the urban poor’s Jan Dhan accounts, besides offering 10 kg of rice or wheat for free, as a one-time measure in the next 21 days to every ration cardholder.
He urged all registered employers to maintain current levels of employment and wages. “Guarantee to such employers who do so that the wages of the employees will be reimbursed by the government within 30 days of payment.”
Chidambaram also called for opening a register in every ward or block and invite persons who have not received payment under any of the categories. These, he said, include destitute.
“After minimal verification, open a bank account in each name [if there is not already one], seed it with Aadhaar and transfer Rs 3,000 into each bank account,” he added.
The Congress leader also sought extension of deadlines for payment of any kind of tax until June 30. In the interim, banks can be instructed to lend to panchayats, municipalities, and corporations against the security of the tax receivables.
He said banks should be instructed to extend the date for any kind of payment of equated monthly installments (EMIs) until June 30.
The former finance minister said these steps are for the present, one-time cash transfers and the need for more such transfers can be assessed depending upon the situation as it evolves.
“This plan would address only the immediate challenge of putting cash in the hands of the people who will STAY HOME. There are many other challenges that have to be addressed in the next few days,” he added.