On March 29-30th 2017, the India Network for Basic Income (INBI) and Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA Bharat) held the first national conference on universal basic income (UBI) in India. During the conference a series of panel discussions and lectures were held, debating and exploring a range of issues concerning basic income in India. The two-day conference was held at the India International Center in New Delhi.

The conference comes as basic income proposals in India have increased in popularity. For example, this year India’s annual Economic Survey included an entire chapter on the prospects of a universal basic income in India.  India’s finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, presented the survey which describes the state of the economy from the previous year, and its prospects for the future.  The chapter on basic income was authored by Arvind Subramanian, the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India. To read more about the economic survey, see Basic Income News coverage here.

Below are a few of the lectures and discussions from the conference that were presented in English. To see the full range of lectures at the conference, see INBI’s YouTube channel here.


Renana Jhabvala – Purpose and Direction

Jhabvala spoke as an associate of the SEWA. She spoke about the results of some of the unconditional basic income pilot projects in India.


Arvind Subramanian – Inaugural Address

Subramanian is the Chief Economic Advisor at the Ministry of Finance. In this recorded speech, he delivered the inaugural address for the conference, in which he outlined the three most attractive features on UBI in his eyes: 1) Universality, 2) Unconditionality, and 3) Agency.  He also argued that UBI in India could only be made affordable if it were to replace at least some existing welfare measures.


Haseeb Drabu – Opening remarks

Drabu is the Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir regions in India. In this speech, he explored the ‘fundamental’ question: can India pool all of its social spending to create a basic income for people below the poverty line?


Guy Standing – Justifying UBI

Standing is a Research Professor at SOAS, University at London and Co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). According to him, these are the three major justifications for UBI:1) Social justice (reduction of inequality), 2) Enhancing republican freedom and 3) Increasing the economic security of recipients.


Mathew Cherian – Starting With The Aged

Cherian is the CEO of HelpAge India. He made a case in favor of UBI for senior citizens, by addressing the question of whether senior citizens should be the first to receive a basic income.


Subir Gokarn – The Case for Basic Income

Gokarn is the Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund. Although he did not openly advocate a UBI, he did argue against categorically rejecting UBI.


Arvind Virmani – Closing Remarks

Virmani is the former Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India.  He argued that poverty alleviation has failed and what is needed is poverty elimination. He called for a UBI to replace the hundreds of poverty alleviation schemes at work in India.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Channi Anand)