Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Punjab has little to gain from Rahul Gandhi’s minimum income plan
Punjab’s average monthly household income is ₹16,000, higher than eligibility threshold of ₹12,000.
Even as the ruling Congress in Punjab is gung-ho after party president Rahul Gandhi on Monday unveiled the contours of the minimum income guarantee scheme, Punjab has little to cheer about.
Not many of its households will benefit from the proposal since the average monthly income of rural households here is several notches higher than the threshold income for above poverty of Rs12,000.
Riding the populist bandwagon, the party had earlier reaped political windfall by promising farm debt waiver in the run-up to the recently held assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. It has now assured 20 per cent poorest families of the country a payout of up to ₹72,000 per year — ₹6,000 per month —under the proposed Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY).
According to the report of the All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey 2016-17 (NAFIS) released in August 2018 by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Punjab has the highest average monthly household income of ₹16,020, followed by Kerala at ₹15,130. The average monthly consumption expenditure per household of Punjab ( ₹11,707) too is the highest in India, nearly twice the national average of ₹6,646, followed by Kerala ( ₹11,156).
The agricultural households in Punjab earned even more. Their monthly income stood at ₹23,133, the highest in the country, followed by Haryana at ₹18,496 and Kerala at ₹16,927.
The Congress seems to have done its poll math right. Nearly 20 per cent of the country’s households, as per the report, earn ₹2,500 or lesser per month. And they live in politically important states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh where the average household income hovers between ₹5,000 and ₹6,200. Andhra is at the bottom of the list with monthly income of ₹5,842 with Jharkhand ( ₹5,854), UP ( ₹6,257) and Bihar ( ₹6,277) above it in the list. The scheme will also benefit states such as West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh whose consumption is lower than the national average.
Paradoxically, Punjab ranked poorly on savings. Just 18% of the surveyed households in the state had at least one family member saving with any institution in the last one year, higher only than Madhya Pradesh which ranked the lowest at 16%. In terms of incidence of indebtedness, Punjab did not fare among the worst. Telangana tops the chart at 79%.
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar says the scheme is another proof of pro-poor credentials of the party.
“It will uplift the entire family. Rahul has tried to empower women too as the money will be credited to their bank accounts. It will also bring down drop out rates among school children. Unlike the BJP, which has benefitted just capitalists, the Congress has kept the tradition of uplifting the poor alive. After National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), Food Security Act and the Right to Education Act, there is NYAY now,” Jakhar said.
“The dole will not subsume any of the existing subsidies but will be over and above,” he added.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Monday too hailed the scheme as a path-breaking initiative.