By Aroonim Bhuyan
New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) P.D. Rai, the lone Sikkim member of the Lok Sabha, has said that Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s promise to introduce a unique Universal Basic Income (UBI) if voted back to power was a proactive measure and a leap of faith.
According to Rai, under UBI, every baby born in the state will start getting an income since birth.
In an interview with IANS here, Rai said the idea behind UBI was to give people of the state a chance to make better choices in life.
“UBI is for every citizen of Sikkim, all Sikkimese people,” he said.
A small state with an area of just 7,096 sq km, Sikkim has a population of a little over 610,000 and a per capita income of Rs 88,000-plus.
Rai admitted that there was a huge consultative process ahead of the scheme’s implementation.
Referring to the NDA government’s Interim Budget on February 1 giving sops to farmers and Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s promise to guarantee minimum income to the poor, Rai said that these were more reactive in nature because of the agrarian crisis in the country.
“In Sikkim, we have none of that,” he said.
“Ours is a very proactive state and we rank among the top two or three states in the country in terms of income. We are looking ahead at changing the mindset of the youth.”
But will UBS not make make people lazy?
“Lazy people will be lazy people whether they get money or not,” Rai said. “That is why we are not calling it a grant but an income as this will trigger a different thought process. It is a leap of faith.”
He said that once people will know that a fixed income is coming to their bank account every month, they will be in a position to make better choices in life.
So, where will the funds come from to implement such an ambitious scheme?
“It has to be tied to our own good resources,” Rai said. “We have good hydropower, tourism, organic farming and pharmaceutical companies too coming in. There will be a huge explosion of educational facilities and also medical tourism. Within these, we will find the funds.”
Rai explained that, for example, if a hydropower project is being set up in some part of the state and people in that area face the prospect of dislocation, they will not resist this as they will understand that it will be a part of their UBI.
He said that in most parts of the world, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people. “But we are not thinking about the rest of the world or India, but just Sikkim.”
So, is Gandhi’s promise of rolling out a similar scheme pan India feasible?
“I think if other states follow Sikkim’s example, it may be possible,” Rai said. “May be not nationally but states can do it individually. That is why a consultative process is so important.”
(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at [email protected])