India: Universal Basic Income: Re-Imagining Social Security

Last Updated: 3 July 2018
Article by Kartikay Yadav

Part I

In order to absorb such thundering shocks during crisis period, a minimum core approached embraced in international human rights law as well as in some domestic jurisdictions provides

A just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you'd be willing to enter it in a random place.

-John Rawls

It has been beautifully suggested after deep deliberation that, "People don't just have needs, rather they have ideas about their needs", ideas which evolved over considerable period of time with cultural embodiment. The conception of social rights spreading through 20th century has brought around sea change in jurisprudence of rights associated with humans in general. The proclamation of UDHR under the aegis of UN General Assembly in 1948 has given the world a new segment of human rights, euphemistically called social rights. They provide for various rights like those covering social security, rest and leisure, work, education, decent standard of living and cultural participation.

Amongst a plethora of such rights, the coverage in this article will largely be restricted to socio­economic rights. Democratically nurtured constitutions across the globe unmistakably, are impregnated with provisions bearing fulfillment and protection of socio-economic rights. To put in perspective, Indian constitution provides for such rights in the preamble itself, even before venturing into chapters of the opus. It has been argued by Cecile Fabre that, such rights protect the vital interests individuals have in autonomy and well-being.

Further, it has been emphasized that respect for socio-economic rights shall be placed at equal pedestal to that of civil and political rights in order to aspire for equality and decent polity.

Interestingly, socio-economic rights give rise to both negative as well as positive obligations. Henry Shue has also argued for recognizing and appreciating both positive and negative obligations emanating out of socio-economic rights. Under negative obligation, state is bound to protect the property, other assets of an individual form improper invasion. On the other hand, positive obligations come into play, when an individual is completely unable to fend for their own needs. The need for positive obligations towards the state become more pronounced during crisis. . In the landmark case of Grootboom v. Govt. of Republic of South Africa, it was duly recognized that the crisis need not restrict itself to physical needs of an individual, rather emotional and psychological dimension may be also be considered.

Moreover, the impact of impaired protection of socio-economic rights on developing countries could be more shattering, since in such countries at a given point of time considerable population lives in state of impending crisis. In light of emerging uncertainties, a relatively new idea in realm of social security is being tested across various jurisdictions globally. This potential reimaging of social security is given a mantle of universality, thus colloquially called Universal Basic Income.

CONCEPTUAL UNDERPINNING

The specific terminology of Universal Basic Income is typically employed when such universalization is based on citizenship. Though, the idea of basic income has enamored humanists for too long, a more recent usage could be associated with American revolutionary Thomas Paine. However, the idea underlying Paine's imagination was that of Guaranteed Minimum Income, particularly covering those whose land was taken by the government.

Further, Philippe Van Parijs in his seminal work with Bruce Ackerman, perhaps the best-known academic advocate of basic income, puts basic income as "an income paid by a political community to all its members on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement." Thus, receiving basic income does not require satisfying a means or income test, it is also not conditioned on any work requirement.

In fact, basic income is insulated from any intention or willingness to work nor, the fulfilment of any sort of broad notion of social contribution, such as employment, job search, education, training, , or home care for children or elderly.

Universality + Unconditionality + Agency = Universal Basic Income

Universal: that the disbursal of such income will be aimed at achieving universalization in income parity at minimum threshold.

Unconditional: no strings attached payment being made to all citizens.

Agency: it is based on the principle that people are masters of their own fate. As it got written in The Economist, "The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them".

Political philosopher John Rawls wrote, "Once a suitable minimum is provided by transfers, it may be perfectly fair that the rest of total income be settled by the price system."

Similarly, highly revered legal economists Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell have made a deliberative argument that the tax system, rather than the legal system, should be the sole method for redistributing income.

PHILOSOPHICAL GOALS

Economic Survey 2016-17 has described the concept of UBI as a radical and compelling paradigm shift, encompassing both social justice and economic productivity. It could create similar wonders to 21st century, what the civil and political rights did in the 20th century.

Basic income might enable individuals to choose much more freely what's appropriate for their situation.

The concept of UBI could make disruptive impact on the following themes:

Social Justice

Primarily, UBI is a ground breaking test of a just and non-exploitive society. It ascertains the key agenda mentioned right at the beginning of constitution of ensuring justice to citizenry at large. Universal Basic Income augurs well with most basic norms of society, by guaranteeing equal respect to all citizens. Also, it is proposed to be anti-paternalistic granting choice of income utilization.

Economic Equality

UBI could play crucial role in rectifying the persistent imbalance of social spending across districts in India. It has been analysed that the share of social spending of most poor districts is not coterminous to their percentage of poverty.

Poverty Alleviation

It has been contended that if implemented wisely, UBI could evolve as the most effective and fastest way in reducing poverty. It could be seen as the civilized way to combat poverty.

UBI counteracts against the inequalities generated by labor markets and immovable assets ownership by ensuring everyone a guaranteed flow of subsistence. It provides a sustained level of decent living standard for children extinguishing the pathologies of poverty traps and work disincentives characteristic of means-tested antipoverty programs.

PART-II

GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

London

In 2009, a Charity undertook a project of disbursal of GBP 3000 per annum to street dwellers. It was not initiated by the Government. The result was eye opening and worthy of attention. On an average only GBP 800 was spent by the chosen group. Nearly all of them used that Free Money in the most pragmatic manner, as suited to their respective needs.

Switzerland

It was taken up through referendum in June 2016, that guaranteeing Swiss Franc 2500 for every individual per month. It got rejected with 77% people voting against such universalization of income. Curiously, citizens of SUI are not in favor of labour-free money.

USA

Under the Presidency of Richard Nixon, a bill providing for minimum guaranteed income received assent from House of Representative. Unfortunately, it could not muster enough votes in Senate and got debunked. Never such initiative came up after that.

Finland

An ideal welfare state. Scandinavian countries are looked upon as lodestar in marching rally of welfare measures.

In Finland, a pilot study started in January 2016 under which 560 euros was given to the selected group of people. Results of the study are expected to come out in December 2018.

AN INDIAN CASE STUDY

There has been one pilot project carried out by an NGO in Madhya Pradesh in 2010. It reached to conclusion in 2013. The pilot project was not backed by any government (Central or State). The results of the project are astonishingly positive and deserves due analysis.

Research was conducted in 8 villages, where 6000 people were given fixed monthly sum.

  • Nearly 25% households changed their main source of energy for cooking and lighting.
  • Of the total households, 16% repaired their toilets.
  • Of these 95.6% had bank accounts. In a year 73% reported decline in their debt.
  • There was no increased spending in temptation goods.

Perhaps, it is quite wisely said by one of the most prolific writers, "A nation is not made wealthy by the childish accumulation of shiny metals, but it is enriched by the economic prosperity of its people".

There has been a contemporary announcement, in which state of Jammu & Kashmir has shown intent to implement Universal basic Income, thus becoming first Indian state to do so.

CONCLUSION

As has been well written by Vox journalist Dylan Matthews, "Basic income is having a moment." The idea of social entitlement based on Universalization has caught imagination of world leaders unanimously. As a matter of fact, UBI was hot topic during WEF in Davos during 2016. The title was 'World without Work'.

However, it will be highly solicited from the state to appreciate the fact that the human life depends not only on income but also on social opportunities, particularly education and health care.

One of the most defining reform to be expected through UBI is that in area of gender parity. A women's monthly, unattached income through a basic income entitlement gives her more bargaining power in the household . This would also allow mothers to raise their kids independently in a much more uninhibited environment.

As was mentioned by Karl Marx in one of his letters that the social progress can be measured by the social position of the fairer sex. Thus, the progress of any nation is intrinsically linked to holistic development of all its subjects.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Industry
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions