Universal Basic Income (UBI) is also known as basic income or a guaranteed annual income for every citizen without keeping in mind their employment status, resources, etc. It is a model in which every citizen gets a minimal amount of money without keeping in mind his/her current employment status. The main objective of UBIis to reduce the level of poverty and increase equality amongst the masses.The Concept of basic income was first coined in the 16th century. Countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Finland, etc provides basic income to its citizens. It is not a new concept in India but still majority of the population are unaware of this topic, schemes like National Old Age Pension Scheme which provides a cash transfer to below poverty line given after the retirement of people, etc are some of the examples of universal basic level, with pros comes to the cons as well.
This article contemplates the meaning, short history, characteristics, and examples of basic income, pros and cons, legal provisions under Indian laws and cases.
Martin Luther King Jr has rightly said that, “A guaranteed income would help in the abolishment of poverty”, the above quote can be contemplated as if there is a uniform level of income provided to every citizen it will also help in reducing the level of inequality as well. Universal Basic Income is a concept that is not only confined to economy but is also related to a person social status. According to a group related to advocacy, basic income is based on the principle that all the citizens of a country are entitled to a basic level of income even if they do not contribute anything in the process of production. According to Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) there are certain characteristics of a basic level of income which are stated below:
It states that all the citizens in different countries are entitled to a basic level of income for their survival even if their contribution is nil.
It states that the citizens are entitled to UBI at periodical intervals.
For receiving income, it is not necessary for the person to show his eagerness to work in a particular organization in the future.
Payment on an individual basis:
It is made on an individual basis and not on a family basis.
Payments made in cash:
Citizens receive the payment either in the form of funds or in the form of vouchers.
Basic income refers to the guaranteed amount of income which a citizen of a country receives through its government; it helps in reducing the level of poverty and to cover an individual’s basic cost of living.
In other words, it is a [WU3] program which provides a specific amount of income to every individual citizen even when they have no source of income.
The concept of universal basic income was originated in the early 16th century by Sir Thomas More’s Utopia he stated that every person who received a guaranteed income to sustain its livelihood. Then later in 18th century, English radical namely Thomas Spence and American Revolutionary Thomas Paine said that to build a welfare state it is necessary to provide a guaranteed amount of income to its citizens. Europe in the year 1980 started debating whether to provide a basic level of income or not.
It was inthe year 2008 varieties of experiments took place to provide a basic level of income to everyone.
Few examples of the basic level of income in India:
It is a new concept where the citizens get all the benefits and money provided by the government directly into their bank accounts.
National Old Age Pension Scheme:
Under this scheme, cash transfer is been made to the old aged people who are below the poverty line (BPL) so that they can sustain their livelihood.
Indira Gandhi Widow Pension Scheme:
Under this scheme, the widow gets a certain amount as a basic income so that they can sustain their life after the death of the husband.
Under this scheme, a seasonal crop farmer in Telangana gets basic income assistance of rupees 4,000 per acre of land.
Through the above-stated schemes, the government is trying to reduce the rate of poverty in India and is working more on similar kind of schemes so that no person has to sleep an empty stomach.
Pros and Cons:
With every pro comes the con, i.e., everything has anadvantage as well as adisadvantage attached to it. Following are some of the pros and cons of the basic level of income:
Better job opportunities for workers:
If labourers will get such kind of assistance then they can switch to better jobs which will help them in more money and improved livelihood.
Helps in reducing the level of poverty:
People who are not earning, then through this will get income assistance eventually reducing the level of poverty in the country.
Stabilization of economy of a country:
If the poverty level will be reduced it will gradually help the economy to grow and stabilize.
If the people will get income without even doing a job them most of the people will leave their job as they will be having an option of getting income from the government without doing anything.
Reduction in a standard of living rate:
When people will get a fixed amount as a basic level of income they will not work hard eventually resulting in a low rate of standardized living.
Countries which provides a basic level of incomes:
Countries such as America, France Canada, Brazil, Belgium, Finland, etc, provides a basic level of income to sustain their lives for those who are unable to work and earn money.
The Right to basic income is an integral part of the right to live a life full of dignity, so universal basic income is part of similar right which is granted to the citizens of a country.
Universal basic incomes are considered as a right to live with dignity or right to live which is mentioned under Article-21 of our Indian Constitution. The main objective of this article is firstly to live a life full of dignity and secondly to make the facts clear.
Every individual has a right to live a life full of dignity and the same is been assured by the preamble of our Constitution and no one can take this away until and unless it is violating the right of other individuals.
Sunil Batra v Delhi Administration
This is a case related to the inhumane torture made by the police to the prisoners in jail.
Supreme Court in this case held that, prisoners are not the animals but are individuals who also have a right to live with dignity which cannot be taken away by any prison guards and ordered that even the prisoners should also be treated in a dignified manner.
Maneka Gandhi v Union of India
The Court keeping in mind Part-III of constitution which covers the fundamental rights chapter which is supposed to protect one’s right to live with dignity and to have suitable and pleasing conditions for the same and observed that right to life is so supreme value which cannot be taken away by anyone.
Paschim Bangha Khet Mazdoor Samity v State of West Bengal
Supreme Court in this case held that, it is the paramount duty of a welfare state to safeguard the right to life and for the same, it must provide adequate health care facilities to its’ citizens, on time medical care assistance, etc.
The right of receiving a basic level of income is said to be an integral part of an individual’s life duty of each state government must ensure that every citizen of it’s state is living a life full of dignity such as getting a minimum amount of basic income, getting medical assistance on time, better healthcare facilities, etc. Constitution of India has also regarded the Sate as a caretaker of its citizens so it is the prime and the most important duty of a state to ensure a right to live with dignity to every individual.
Right to basic income is regarded as an integral part of one’s life especially when it helps in improving the standard of living as a matter of right and it is made to reduce the level of poverty in a specific country so that no person has to sleep empty stomach which according to me is a very good initiative practiced by the states since a long time.
Question and Answers:
Q-1 Do you think the right to basic income will help in reducing the level of poverty and hunger in a country?
Yes, if a person such as a widow or a physically challenged person is not capable of earning but is getting such assistance from the government then it will help in reducing the level of poverty and hunger in a country.
Q-2 Does the right to basic level is covered under any laws of India?
Yes, Article-21 of our Indian Constitution talks about the right to live life with dignity which also covers right to a basic level of income as well.
Q-3 What is your take on providing fixed amount of income to people? Does it promote unemployment?
No, the right to basic level of income is mostly beneficialfor those people who are incapable of earning by their own due to some irreparable losses.
Q-4 Does state government owes ay duty towards its citizens?
Yes, the state government owes many duties towards different individuals of its state such as providing quick and effective medical assistance to its citizens, to provide a basic level of income so that they can sustain their livelihood, etc.
Q-5 What if any country or state does not provide any kind of basic level of income to its citizens?
It is necessary that every government must provide certain amount of income to its citizens otherwise it will increase the poverty rate, crime rates, etc, leading to a further downfall in the economy.
 Sunil Batra v Delhi Administration (1978) 4SCC 409
Maneka Gandhi v Union of India (1978) AIR 597 SCR (2) 621 197
Paschim Bangha Khet Mazdoor Samity v State of West Bengal (1996) AIR SC 2426/(1996) 4 SCC 37