Resource centre on India's rural distress

A safety net, post Covid: We need to provide minimum income for poor and vulnerable -C Rangarajan and S Mahendra Dev

-The Indian Express

We need to provide minimum income for poor and vulnerable — cash transfers for women, increasing MGNREGA to 150 days in rural areas, introduction of urban employment guarantee scheme.

In the post corona crisis situation, India has to address many problems, of which two stand out. First, the improvement of our healthcare system and second, the need for the institution of a scheme to provide minimum income support to the weak and vulnerable groups. In this article, we address the second issue.

There has been considerable discussion on universal basic income (UBI) in recent years. It is true that a universal scheme is easy to implement. Feasibility is the critical question. The Congress had suggested NYAY to help the poor. The problem with non-universal targeted programmes is the problem of identification. Narrowly-targeted programmes will run into complex problems of identification and give rise to exclusion and inclusion errors.

In order to avoid the identification problem, we have three proposals which meet the objective of providing a minimum basic income to the poor and vulnerable groups in both rural and urban areas. These are: One, give cash transfers to all women above the age of 20 years; two, expand the number of days provided under MGNREGA and three, have a national employment guarantee scheme in urban areas. In all the three proposals, there is no problem of identification. A combination of cash transfers and an expanded employment guarantee scheme can provide a minimum basic income.

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