Universal Basic Income in India: Need of the hour?

We are living in testing times. The Covid-19 has taken inequalities to the next level by dividing the society into haves and have-nots. This has threatened the livelihood of thousands, while millions of people losing their jobs to this. 

One such example is concerning technology advancements that are happening with respect to artificial intelligence and automation. All this means that those people who are currently employed will be unemployed in the near future, reducing the jobs and ultimately an increase in poverty with a low purchasing power. This will further increase the relative poverty in that particular region, especially that of the informal sector. This is where people have to be protected. More money needs to be given to the people of India. 

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Why is Universal Basic Income (UBI) needed when economic relief packages are being released?
The government has released multiple packages for multiple sectors like agriculture, MSMEs, and so forth. So when the government has come up with such economic stimulus packages, what is the need for UBI? This is because when it comes to universal basic income, it does not come with any conditions whatsoever. However, when it comes to the packages, they are based on several conditions. 

The government has come up with several policies and initiatives, schemes and programs, loans and payloads etc. but is it reaching the person who needs it? Unfortunately NO (according to several statistics). This is where the universal basic income program steps in. 

What does UBI do?
It ensures stability. How? There is a fixed income that an individual and a family gets. So they do not have to deal with psychological and material stress. This also helps increase the demand in the markets by the individuals, further increasing the economic activities. 

Despite all the advantages, why is it that the UBI is not implemented?
That is because of the major challenge in the form of huge money which is required in its implementation, making it safely reach the needy. So is there an alternative? YES. 

Today, we have several subsidies given by the government of India. Some of these subsidies can be removed and such subsidies can further be used to provide a universal basic income. Another alternative includes the quasi-basic income scheme. This was proposed in the year 2016-17 economic survey as well as by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). What this does is that it tells to exempt the people who already have enough. Hence, it allows the categorization of people, bringing to light the ones who are in need.  

To conclude, the lockdown in some format or the other will continue to haunt the poor and needy people along with the migrant workers. This is where the government of India must introduce this pay scheme at maximum universality at least until the Covid-19 continues or the economic activities resume fully.

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