See More on Facebook

Analysis, News, Politics

Basic Income in India has been tried before

Is Rahul Gandhi’s basic income a ploy, history holds on a lesson.


Written by

Updated: January 31, 2019

Speaking to a rally of farmers in Chhattisgarh on Monday, opposition candidate Rahul Gandhi announced that if his party is voted into power in the country’s upcoming national elections then it will introduce a Universal Basic Income of sorts.

The “minimum income guarantee” would go out to every “poor person” in India—meaning those that fall within a minimum threshold level of income—and could potentially replace other government welfare systems: subsidies on food, fuel, etc. By the international standard set out by the World Bank, nearly 22 percent of the Indian population falls below the poverty line.

The idea of basic income, or minimum income, has been attempted in other countries before. Universal Basic Income experiments have been carried out on small scales in Ontario, Canada as well as in Finland. But has it ever been tried in India?

The answer is yes, and the results were promising.

Two important studies of such unconditional cash payments have been carried out in India, one in Madhya Pradesh and one in Delhi. The Madhya Pradesh study assessed the impacts of these cash transfers alongside existing welfare schemes, like food subsidies. The Delhi test examined the outcomes when a minimum income program takes the place of such schemes.

In the Delhi trial, researchers found that giving a randomly selected 100 households 1,000 rupees per month in lieu of food subsidies resulted in no reduction of calorie consumption, and raised spending on nutritious food goods.

In Madhya Pradesh, the experiment, which was launched by UNICEF saw over 6,000 people, both adults and children, receive a basic income for one year to seventeen months.

Guy Standing, a professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and a principal researcher on the pilots said the results of the studies showed that “basic income can be transformative.”

The cash grants increased savings, and improved living conditions. Households that received the cash had better access to clean water, and had increase purchasing power overall. Whether those results will remain as positive if such small-scale studies were to be extrapolated out to include all of India remains to be seen.

In terms of this election, however, Gandhi’s announcement could be a true game-changer.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Quinn Libson
About the Author: Quinn Libson is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, News, Politics

The transformation of Gokul Baskota

How Nepal’s communications minister went from being a fierce reporter to a hardline politician against free press. For Gokul Baskota, the last twelve months have been particularly busy. Since taking the helm of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which had been without a leader for several months before his appointment last June, Baskota has eagerly placed himself at the centre of a nonstop media storm, defending every controversial bill the government has tabled or passed—from the Medical Education Bill to the 


By The Kathmandu Post
June 25, 2019

Analysis, News, Politics

ASEAN meets in Bangkok but old problems remain

As ASEAN’s leaders attend the bloc’s annual two-day summit in Bangkok, many unasked and unanswered questions remain about the group’s viability going forward. Since its conception 52-years ago, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has maintained a policy of political non-interference. All statements released together as a group must be unanimously approved less it hinder domestic considerations. During the last 52 years, many countries within the bloc have transitioned from despotic, totalitarian rule to semi-democratic and fully democratic states. Gone are the Marcos, Suhartos and Sarits of yesteryear, replaced by a new guard with clearer mandates and blossoming economies. But as ASEAN members have transitioned and politically matured, so to has the world around the region. Gone are the black and white days of the cold war, replaced by a burgeoning China, a still powerful United States and


By Cod Satrusayang
June 24, 2019

Analysis, News, Politics

Hong Kong set for more protest

Hong Kong gears up for more protests over extradition Bill as hundreds gather. Protesters began streaming in towards the Hong Kong government headquarters early Friday (June 21) morning, joining others who had camped there overnight after the administration ignored a deadline the previous day to withdraw a controversial extradition Bill. They have vowed to escalate matters on Friday and cut off access to the roads surrounding the government central offices in Tamar, Admiralty until their list of demands are met. These include a complete withdrawal of the proposed law – plans for which have been indefinitely suspended – for the June 12 protests not to be categorised as a riot, for everyone arrested


By The Straits Times
June 21, 2019

Analysis, News, Politics

OPINION: What Asia’s election season tells us

Elections have wrapped up from Pakistan to the Philippines. In the first half of this year, four Asian giants went to the polls. Up to one billion voters were involved, all within a few weeks of one another. Team Ceritalah was on the ground in Thailand, Philippines, India and Indonesia. In Eluru in April, some two hours northeast of Amravati, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, we discovered a city pulsating with people. It was also mind-blowingly hot: some 42 degrees with music blaring out of loudspeakers as crowds waited for a candidate’s arrival. By contrast, when Team Ceritalah were in the Thai city of Phitsanulok in February, the mood was subdued and calm. Most people knew who they’d be voting for. Besides, everyone understood that the polls were a farce Back in April and just a handful of days before voting, Team Ceritalah also joined the hordes at Jakarta’s main stadium – Gelora


By The Star
June 19, 2019

Analysis, News, Politics

Hong Kong protests rattle Taiwan’s political scene

Hong Kong’s protest has caused significant changes politically in Taiwan. TAIPEI (The China Post) — Han Kuo-yu’s explicit contradiction of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” took everyone by surprise over the latest weekend. This was his most forceful rejection of the political framework aimed at ousting the Beijing-friendly image depicted by his rivals. True to his alleged pro-unification stance – he recently met with the directors of Beijing’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau as well as the Communist Party chief in China, he first said: “I don’t know about the Hong Kong protests. I don’t know, I’m not aware.” The controversial comment not only had a devasting effect on his ratings but also caused some cracks in his well-polished public discourse. He was one step behind President Tsai Ing-wen who deftly declared her support of the anti-extradition protestors. “We


By Asia News Network
June 19, 2019

Analysis, News, Politics

Hong Kong leader apologises for protest response

I offer my most sincere apology to all the people of Hong Kong: Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered her personal apology to every Hong Konger for her inadequacies in handling the extradition Bill saga, saying the incident has made her realise she needs to do better, to hear people out and to work harder to balance the view of the people. Mrs Lam told a press conference, which started at 4pm on Tuesday (June 18) and lasted for nearly an hour, that she will not restart the legislative process of the extradition Bill as long as the conflict in society is not resolved. “I have heard you loud and clear and have reflected deeply on what has transpired,” Mrs Lam said.


By The Straits Times
June 19, 2019