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India: Sikkim state is on the verge of becoming the first place on Earth implementing a basic income

Flowers, on the way to the mountain. Picture credit to: Rookie’s Journal

Sikkim, the second smallest state in India, has grown a reputation, over the years, for environmental consciousness, ethnical diversity and tourism. It is also the home of one of the most educated people on Earth, with a 98% literacy rate. Moreover, in the last couple of decades, policies in the state have been implemented in order to reduce poverty, which presently sits below 8% (from a 41,4% in 1994). The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), the democratically elected party governing the state since 1994, has written basic income into its manifesto for the 2019 Assembly elections, and aims to have it implemented by 2022.

SDF’s MP in New Dehli’s Lower House of Representatives (Lok Sabha), Prem Das Rai, has said that “our party and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling (…) are committed to bringing in Universal Basic Income. This, we will do three years of coming back to power in the state”. This initiative is not intended as a pilot test, but as an actual implementation, hence Prem Das Rai words: “Basically, it’s an income given to families irrespective what do they do. In Sikkim, it will be for everyone and every household.”

As for financing the basic income scheme, SDF officials are considering surplus energy generation revenue (from hydropower) and redirecting costs from welfare programs which cease to be relevant. Restructuring the tax edifice and using tourism revenues are also future financing routes to cover for basic income. In any case, Prem Das Rai is confident that this is “not just a feasible idea, but a very positive idea”.

About this issue, basic income activist Scott Santens has written, on Twitter: “What makes this news so big in my opinion is the fact they’re talking about full universality, unlike what’s being discussed at the national level right now, where cash may be targeted to the poorest 33% of the country and thus not actual UBI. This news out of Sikkim is actual UBI.”

More information at:

Liz Mathew, “Sikkim says it will become first state to roll out Universal Basic Income”, The India Express, January 10th 2019

André Coelho, “India: 2019 General Elections and basic income”, Basic Income News, January 9th 2019

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 305 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

7 comments

  • raja

    I am really amazed with the idea and I wish all the very best to the State and the Chief Minister for a successful implementation. My only worry is that the receipients should not become lazy not to work after receiving the payment.

  • Dotti

    Become lazy, you worry? I doubt it.
    Perhaps humans could actually do something that inspires them and brings happiness – a foreign concept that would contribute to that ‘world peace’ we all talk about, but nobody knows the recipe for. I think it lies in personal fulfillment and happiness.

    As an educated American working 5 jobs now due to declining health as a result of my profession in dentistry (but do not qualify for any programs, including disability), I grow bitter and more disabled everyday trying to make ends meet. Not everyone finds a partner with the good job and benefits. Not everyone can own a home and rent continues to go up, year after year. No one fights for the rights and costs of folks who rent housing all the days of their lives.

    If I were given a basic income that covered much of my rent, I might be able to re-train or re-educate into another profession – but as it is in America, I’ve got to pay rent and that takes 5 jobs. Who has time for joy?

    Stop worrying about folks becoming lazy.

  • I receive a pension and yet I am not inactive. The idea that people work ONLY because they get paid is far from the human condition’s reality. WORKING IS A PLEASURE and we do what makes us happy. Of course not a single activity we do always goes as we want it, even when we do sports we get frustrated at times, but that’s part of the beauty of achieving what we pursue that makes us HAPPY. A basic salary will be enough to survive, but anything above that we want, has to be achieved by working diligently in whatever areas we enjoy doing. We all are also consumers and require to “consume” the products that satisfy our needs, and someone has to manufacture those items. As it is explained in this article, those people in this state are well educated and enjoy a higher consciousness to realize someone has to produce the products they consume. If it happens we design robots to manufacture those products, the no human needs to worry about not “having a job” as long as the investment and the ownership of those robots is shared by the community.

    • Tj

      1. The idea that working gives pleasure, is not a universal fact. It depends on what work one does, if it is forced or voluntary and if it is truly what one wants to do. Me, myself, I really enjoy thinking, and writing helps me do this, but I do not like writing for money. Many ppl do not consider thinking work, because it is not physical, but the brain consumes a lot of energy in a day, so why not use it to the utmost of its potential? If more ppl thought more, and worked less for no reason at all – apart from financial gain as the motivator, maybe the human species as a whole would be able to work smarter and only when needed, rather than building another tower of babel.

      2. You mention that we are all consumers. I prefer to be more nuanced than that, amd suggest that we distinguish between necessary consumption and wanton wasteful mindless consumption. I.e. we all need basic nutricious foods and water to live. Meat is a luxury and completely unnecessary, not only does it use up a lot of our water supply, but it is not what we werw meant to consume, as stewards of the planet according to Genesis, ch 1 in the Old Testament. Furthermore, most work today results in a pollution of our drinking water supplies and the worlds oceans, where fish live, an important food source according to Jesus. Finally, personally, I get more contentment out of meditation, than any stupid plastic trinket that I can buy in a toy store. Maybe that is what it means to be an adult. And, although many ppl claim to want happiness, everyone whom is content in their own skin knows that only unhappy ppl seek happiness, and most of them never find it on the outside, because they fail to look for it on the inside first.

      So, I say, lower the cost of real estate and rental apartments to 1990’s more sane levels, give every law abiding citizen UBI of about 2.000 USD per month for food, clothes and rent and everyone that needs more to make ends meet, well, they will have to work, won’t they… the only criterion is that receivers of UBI are believers, through their words and actions, in basic human rights for all good people and sustainable long term developments, rather than short term insustainable development stricktly for personal gain while honoring the Mantra, do onto others as you wish or will them do unto you.

  • Tj

    The idea that by not working we become lazy is stone age thinking, by ppl whom have not been able to break free from the brainwashing of their culture and parents, 9 times out of 10. In the stone ages, everyone needed to work for the community to survive. But, we do not live in the stone ages any more, it is now 2019.

    The idea that working gives pleasure, is not a universal fact. It depends on what work one does, if it is forced or voluntary and if it is truly what one wants to do. Me, myself, I really enjoy thinking, and writing helps me do this, but I do not like writing for money. Many ppl do not consider thinking work, because it is not physical, but the brain consumes a lot of energy in a day, so why not use it to the utmost of its potential? If more ppl thought more, and worked less for no reason at all – apart from financial gain as the motivator, maybe the human species as a whole would be able to work smarter and only when needed, rather than building yet another tower of babel.

    You mention that we are all consumers. I prefer to be more nuanced than that: I suggest that we distinguish between necessary consumption and wanton wasteful mindless consumption. I.e. we all need basic nutricious foods and water to live. Meat is a luxury and completely unnecessary, not only does it use up a lot of our water supply, but it is not what we were meant to consume, as stewards of the planet according to Genesis, ch 1 in the Old Testament.

    Furthermore, most work today results in a pollution of our drinking water supplies and the worlds oceans, where fish live, an important food source according to Jesus.

    Finally, personally, I get more contentment out of meditation, than any stupid plastic trinket that I can buy in a toy store. Maybe that is what it means to be an adult. And, although many ppl claim to want happiness, everyone whom is content in their own skin knows that only unhappy ppl seek happiness, and most of them never find it on the outside, because they fail to look for it on the inside first.

    So, I say, lower the cost of real estate and rental apartments to 1990’s more sane levels, give every law abiding citizen UBI of about 2.000 USD per month for food, clothes and rent and everyone that needs more to make ends meet, well, they will have to work, won’t they… the only criterion is that receivers of UBI are believers, through their words and actions, in basic human rights for all good people and sustainable long term developments, rather than short term insustainable development stricktly for personal gain …

    …while honoring the Mantra, do onto others as you wish or will them do unto you.

  • will

    UBI is about distribution of wealth. In essence we all need to slow down a bit to create a low carbon ‘sustainable’ society. Reducing consumption, using and recycling, utilising renewable materials, making our homes, transport, cooking etc energy neutral is the way forward. These practices and technologies tied to UBI will liberate people. Most work/jobs anyway are completely unnecessary. The current model of crapitalism makes a life of misery, despair, boredom for a huge percentage of the global population.

  • Teiborlang khongjee

    I wish BIEN a success in redefining n transforming livelihood into a more balance n just environment through UBI.

    ALL THE VERY BEST…….. MY prayers with you all.

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