CONGRESS President Mr. Rahul Gandhi has come out with a patently bad idea that cannot sustain itself in the current economic conditions of the country. His electoral promise of giving 5 crore of the poorest of poor people a monthly hand-out of Rs. 6,000 (Rs. 72,000 annually) is nothing but an obvious intention of misleading the gullible poor people with a view to garnering their votes in the ensuing Lok Sabha election. Not only is the idea highly impractical, given the tight monetary position the country has been experiencing, but also highly immoral as it is aimed at capturing vote-bank. It is not without reason that Union Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley called the idea a “bluff announcement”, and the NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Mr. Rajiv Kumar expressed well-founded fear that the income guarantee plan of the Congress party would bust the economic discipline and act as a strong incentive for the poor people not to work. There can be no disagreement on this count. But then, this has been the style of the Congress party.
A few months ago, the party contested successfully the legislative elections in three States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh by promising a complete loan waiver to farmers, amounting to several thousand crores cumulatively in each. In the past as well, during the Prime Ministership of Dr. Manmohan Singh, the party had indulged in loan waivers amounting to Rs. 60,000 crore-plus. None of these made any difference to the overall condition of the farmers. In a similar manner, the newly-promised income guarantee plan announced by Mr. Rahul Gandhi would end up in a mess that nobody would be able to handle well. Not only will there be a massive financial mess and economic upset but also push an immoral disincentive leading poor people away from industry. No such electoral measure has ever brought peace and prosperity. Much to the contrary, such schemes only bring an unease that comes with absence of creative and gainful engagement for meaningful and honourable subsistence. Obviously, in its anxiety to prove one up on Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, Mr. Rahul Gandhi has thought of making such tall and impossible-to-fulfill promises. Perhaps, Mr. Gandhi does not understand what havoc such decisions would cause in the long run.
Thinking about such dangerous possibilities and avoiding those, does not suit the Congress party’s style. Time and again, during its long innings at the helm for decades, the Congress party spoiled India’s legitimate economic process by indulging in actions that did not make sense. Decades ago, the party had come up with a strange logic about giving loans to poor people through loan festivals (Loan Melas) to which the banks could not say ‘no’. And in order to be able to do that, private sector banks were nationalised, marking the beginning of the doom of professional Indian banking. The proposed income guarantee schemes that promise to put in the accounts of 5 crore poor people Rs, 72,000 annually also is in a similar category. It will go against every possible economic theory meant for the upliftment of the masses from economic mess. No definition of welfare economics would permit any such activity.
There is no doubt that the poor must be supported. But that does not mean milking the exchequer and feeding the people whose actual contribution to generation of surplus and creation of value is nothing but zero. The idea should be to build those capabilities in the poor by making them work for their gains. The idea is not to feed a fish to a hungry man, but to teach him how to fish. Because Mr. Gandhi’s scheme militates against such age-old wisdom, it will be disastrous for the country. But all this will happen only if Mr. Gandhi’s party wins the elections! And that is one big hurdle he may never cross.