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Promising Utopia

India is not rich, and its citizens need the benefits of its welfare programmes

Promising Utopia

Arvind Subramanian, when he was the Chief Economic Adviser, first mooted the idea of a universal basic income system ending all existing subsidies. The government would transfer some funds to each citizen's bank account regularly, and unconditionally, to cover basic needs. Now, Sikkim's ruling party, the Sikkim Democratic Front, seems to be interested in this idea. The Pawan Kumar Chamling government - in power continuously since 1994 - has promised to implement Universal Basic Income if voted to power for another term.

Experimenting with such ideas would be great if India could afford it, and if citizens were more or less equal - socially and financially. But, India is not rich, and its citizens need the benefits of its welfare programmes. Sikkim is no different. The nation's welfare schemes can be reviewed, and wherever feasible, direct fund transfer can be the norm. Talks of universal basic income should remain at a conceptual or philosophical level, and that is exactly what Subramanian had attempted to do.

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