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agriculture | IST

Centre may implement universal basic income to address farmers' woes

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In a bid to address farmers' woes before the Lok Sabha election, the government is planning to implement universal basic income (UBI) scheme, said sources familiar with the matter. The centre is yet to take a decision on UBI as the cost and execution is a concern, sources told CNBC-TV18, requesting anonymity, adding that the roll-out of the scheme may be a challenge for the government.

In a bid to address farmers' woes before the Lok Sabha election, the government is planning to implement universal basic income (UBI) scheme, said sources familiar with the matter.
The centre is yet to take a decision on UBI as the cost and execution is a concern, sources told CNBC-TV18, requesting anonymity, adding that the roll-out of the scheme may be a challenge for the government.
Chief economic advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian in the Economic Survey 2016-17 had mooted the idea of universal basic income or a uniform stipend paid to every adult and child, poor or rich.
UBI will guarantee all citizens enough income to cover their basic needs and would be easier to administer than the current anti-poverty schemes, which are plagued by waste, corruption and abuse.
The government is also studying Rythu Bandhu Scheme and other schemes implemented by Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana governments, according to the sources.
Telangana has introduced Rythu Bandhu or Farmers’ Investment Support Scheme, under which the assistance of Rs 8,000 an acre to all eligible farmers in two installments of Rs 4,000 each would be given.
Aimed at reducing input costs and improving income security the government is likely to announce a package for farmers with a larger impact, the sources said.
The package will focus on providing higher MSP (minimum support price) and create additional sources of income for the farmers, they said, adding that the centre will also announce changes to the government-sponsored crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
According to the sources, the government is working to ensure better implementation and faster settlement of claims and will also add a new provision to the scheme which will cover damage to crops by animals.
Government is also pushing for wider coverage for kisan credit card (KCC) loan scheme. Currently, the scheme covers about 50-55 percent farmers.
It is also exploring the possibility of doubling collateral free loans under KCC to Rs 2 lakh and may allow livestock farmers to get benefits of it. As of now, only agri-farmers are eligible for loans under KCC. The government is considering converting the KCC cards to Rupay and debit cards as well.
BJP's recent loss in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly elections is seen as a result of the discontent among farmers.
Farmers marched to the national capital more than once last year and held massive protests in many parts of the country to share their plight and make various demands, including better crop prices as well as loan waiver.
While the BJP-ruled central government ruled out a loan waiver, the opposition Congress did promise the same during the state elections.
The Congress achieved success in four states -- Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh --- largely riding on the promise of farm loan waiver.
The poll promise was implemented within days of the new governments taking charge in these four states, putting pressure on the centre to take more pro-farmer initiatives.
With general elections due in the next few months, it is certain that the BJP-led NDA and the opposition parties will engage in one-upmanship in wooing farmers and promising dole outs for securing their crucial votes.
With inputs from PTI.