Sikkim would likely become the first Indian state to roll out the Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme aimed at providing a fixed monthly income to residents irrespective of their economic, social status.
The UBI scheme is a global concept aimed at reducing poverty and promoting equality in the society. The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) ruled government plans to implement UBI by 2022 if it is elected to power in the 2019 state assembly polls.
The Economic Survey of India 2017 had called the UBI scheme a sustainable alternative and a "conceptually appealing idea".
SDF MP in Lok Sabha, Prem Das Rai, told the Indian Express that Chief Minister Pawan Chamling is committed to implement the UBI if elected back to power since various economists have supported the model.
Sikkim is planning to mobilise resources and income generating sectors to fund the proposed UBI scheme.The state is already generating surplus power of 2000 MW which it supplies to power trading companies. Besides, a booming tourism sector is yet another income generating avenue for the state. As many as 2.5 million people visit Sikkim every year.
Rai said that there could be restructuring of other schemes, allowances and taxes so as to provide a basic financial security to the adult citizens of the state, especially the youngsters, so that they work for their future without worrying too much about income.
He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also talked about the UBI scheme and that other states should follow Sikkim in eradicating poverty.
What is Universal Basic Income Scheme (UBI)?
The UBI scheme works on a model which emphasises that all individuals are entitled to a periodic basic income irrespective of their current financial status and the social status. The money needed to generate the income is mobilised through the state's resources and taxes.
The cash is thus distributed to the people whether they are willing to work or not. The scheme is akin to the Guaranteed Income model which was introduced in the 16th century to ensure that the basic living needs of the lower-income groups in the society are met.
More recently, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and tech billionaire Elon Musk supported the UBI model, especially to support those people who could lose on the work front in the near future as they will be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence.
There is, however, a global debate regarding the sustainability of UBI, with critics holding the view that it might make people shun work ethics. But its proponents say that it can promote the culture of entrepreneurship and creativity.