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India is Heartless if it Can’t Give Less Than 1% of GDP to 20% Poorest, Chidambaram Says on NYAY Promise

Chidambaram said that the PM-Kisan scheme was a bribe for votes, and his friend - a CA who has not gone to his farm in several years - had also received the money.


Updated:April 8, 2019, 8:12 PM IST
India is Heartless if it Can’t Give Less Than 1% of GDP to 20% Poorest, Chidambaram Says on NYAY Promise
File photo of Congress leader P Chidambaram.

New Delhi: Dismissing concerns around how the Congress would fund its NYAY scheme, senior party leader P Chidambaram on Monday said the scheme would cost less than 1 per cent of India’s GDP and if the country cannot set apart even that much for the poorest 20 per cent, then it is ruled by “heartless people”.

Speaking exclusively to News18, the former finance minister explained that the Congress believes the country owes it to its poor to set apart a small fraction of its GDP for them.

“If a country cannot set apart less than 1 per cent of its GDP for 20 per cent of its population it's a country ruled by heartless people, by callous people. We are talking about less than 1 per cent of the GDP towards NYAY. I challenge any economist to come and tell me that this is not doable,” he said.

The NYAY, or minimum income guarantee scheme, promises to give Rs 72,000 per annum to five crore poor households. It has become the centre piece of the Congress campaign for the Lok Sabha election and the party’s slogan – ab hoga nyay (now there will be justice) – is also based on it.

While it has led to concerns of fiscal discipline, Congress has said that it has consulted several economists before announcing the scheme, including former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.

Explaining the numbers behind his claim that the scheme would cost less than a per cent of the GDP, Chidambaram said that India’s GDP today is Rs 210 lakh crore, and in five years, it will touch 400 lakh crore if the nominal growth is 10-12 per cent.

“The total expenditure of central and state governments is Rs 60 lakh crore. Based on the normal rate of growth over last five to 10 years, it will become a little over Rs 130 lakh crore. From a GDP of Rs 400 lakh crore, at its peak, the NYAY scheme will cost Rs 3.6 lakh crore, which is less than 1 per cent,” he said.

He also said that the NYAY scheme goes far beyond what the PM-Kisan scheme, under which the Modi government is giving farmers Rs 6,000 per year, has promised. Calling the PM-Kisan scheme anaemic, he said it was plainly a “bribe for votes”.

“Rs 2000 were given just before elections were notified and Rs 2000 (handed) just before the first date of polling. A pure bribe for vote. It is 18/day for a family and it is crumbs thrown at the poor,” he said.

Chidambaram further said that cash from the Modi government’s scheme also goes to the landlord farmer who may be an absentee farmer as it can’t differentiate. “The money does not go to the tenant farmer and it doesn't go to the agriculture worker. Of the three limbs of farming today, the second and third are the most vital,” he added.

Giving an example of how the scheme benefits the already rich, he claimed that a friend of his, who is a Chartered Accountant in Hyderabad and has not visited hid farm in several years, also received the Rs 2,000 instalment.

“This is a pure cash for vote scheme. The less said about it the better. If we devise a way of give income support to the farmer, we will take into account NYAY, which also cover a large number of farmers, and then we'll have to decide what other income support has to be given to the farmer,” he concluded.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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