Farmers in India are under considerable stress. Uncertainty regarding weather, yield, prices and revenue, create the perfect conditions for distress and fragility over the exposure to shark lenders. That also means that massive hunger is a risk just around the corner, and in a year of elections in India, its rural population (about 70% of total population) is repeatedly targeted for campaign purposes. Loan waivers, for instance, have been a pet political tool for election purposes, even though waivers haven’t traditionally helped small or marginal farmers (around 80% of all farmers).
To counteract this state of affairs, some states in India start to take matters in their own hands. The province of Telangana has been the first Indian state to provide and unconditional cash transfer to farmers. This, the decision of the Sikkim state to go forward with basic income implementation, experimentations popping up in several parts of the world (e.g.: Germany, Ukraine, United States, Spain), and some political support for basic income over central government in New Dehli, particularly after the 2016-2017 economic survey and its famous chapter on basic income, leads to renewed conversations in India.
In programs like this one, provocatively titled as “Government mulls universal basic income, is India ready for income for all?”, obstacles to basic income seem more in number and in size, than opportunities and benefits it can potentially provide. TV pundits take turns at criticizing the idea: it disincentivizes work, it is unaffordable, it is vague and populist, it cannot possibly be a replacement for long-time and traditional forms of help to those in need. However, simultaneously, some high placed economists and politicians see at least some advantages and viability in a basic income for all Indians, or directed to certain population cohorts (such as farmers). The dice are rolling.
Sarath Davala. Picture credit to: BIEN
Sarath Davala, coordinator at India Network for Basic Income (INBI), has written on Facebook: “Increasingly I am beginning to think that India could be the first country to take the plunge into a kind of Targeted Basic Income. It won’t be universal, but it will certainly be unconditional. The initiative is more likely to come from the provinces”. Guy Standing, also a long-time activist and researcher on basic income and someone who has been deeply involved in the Indian (basic income) experiments, has also pronounced himself at the onset of India’s first steps towards this revolutionary policy: “The beauty of moving towards a modest basic income would be that all groups would gain. That would not preclude special additional support for those with special needs, nor be any threat to a progressive welfare state in the long-term. It would merely be an anchor of a 21st century income distribution system. Will the politicians show the will to implement it? We need to see”.
Guy Standing has just posted an article on the Great Transition Initiative website. Titled “The Precariat: Today’s Transformative Class?”, the essay describes social evolution in the last few centuries and present-day neoliberal “rentier economy”, which has created the conditions to the rise of a new social class for which Standing has named the “precariat”.
Guy Standing defends that it will be through this new “precariat” that profound changes to humanity’s social organization will come about. First, because by not knowing stable employment, it does not believe jobs are the answer to insecurity, like many politicians on the Left tend to think. Jobs are, in this framework, representatives of an already falling hierarchical way of organization, which he considers contrary to human nature. Ancient societies – ex.: Greeks – for all their problems and prejudices, valued much more leisure than work, and so, nowadays, would make more sense to pursue knowledge and meaning, rather than endless consumption.
For this to come about, however, a new economic system must flourish. One that recognizes ecological limits and insures basic security for all. A profound philosophical shift lies at the heart of this process, and that’s one that ceases to consider each person as a separate individual – who to have something must own it, depriving others from it – to another where interdependency and sharing are the utmost values. From there, Standing recalls that the Commons are shared prosperity between humans and should be strengthened as a way to reverse decades of neoliberal enclosure, commodification, privatization and colonization.
He then devises a general idea on how the Commons should generate revenue for redistribution among all people, in a similar process adopted by some Social Funds around the world (ex.: Norwegian Pension Fund Global, the Alaskan Permanent Fund). That revenue would be derived, then, by taxing all those exploring Commons resources, such as land, the atmosphere, the rivers and oceans, even intellectual work. Since the Commons are, in principle, shared equally by all the commoners, it only makes sense to redistribute the Social Funds setup this way as an equal share to all of them, unconditionally. That’s where basic income ste ps in, as a crucial and structural piece of social policy, within this new kind of social contract. This will, according to Guy Standing, provide basic security for all, strengthen social solidarity and shift work time and energy towards reproductive, sharing and resource-conserving activities (away from resource-depleting ones).
Universal basic income. A radical rethinking of work, well-being and freedom. This is the title of the meeting that took place within the Festival of Journalism held in Perugia on April 13th, 2018. From 2 pm at the Teatro della Sapienza, Alessandro Gilioli de L’Espresso magazine interviewed Guy Standing from BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network).
As an introduction to the meeting, a question was asked:
Can we create a fairer society by providing a guaranteed income for all citizens? What would this mean for our health, wealth and well-being?
Basic income is rooted in the idea that all citizens have a role in generating the wealth currently enjoyed only by a few. Faced with the increasing precariousness in all areas of work, an emerging disaffected mass class and signals of political instability, basic income is an issue around which to build new progressive policies, to redefine citizens’ relationship with work and the community in which they live. Guy Standing, an economist who has been for many years a leading figure worldwide in research on basic income, illustrates what we can learn from the pilot projects on basic income undertaken in various parts of the world, what the effects are on the economy, on poverty and on work, and why many of the arguments against basic income can be overcome.
During the World Economic Forum during 23rd-26th January in Davos, Switzerland, universal basic income (UBI) will be discussed at several sessions:
11:00 GMT 23 January: How Is Rentier Capitalism Aggravating Inequality?
For the summary, speakers and live streaming, please see here.
11:30 GMT 26 January: Guaranteed Income for Growth?
For the summary, speakers and live streaming, please see here.
Guy Standing, a Research Professor in Development Studies, University of London, and an honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network, who will be on the panels of the above two sessions, will also speak for UBI in the following two sessions:
13:30 GMT 23 January: Social Safety Nets for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
16:30 GMT 23 January: Bringing Dignity with Basic Income
The details of these two sessions is not yet disclosed online. UBI was also discussed the World Economic Forum held in 2017.
At the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, from November 5th to 8th, Guy Standing took part in this big event. Over 60,000 participants from 170 countries attended the event; the event hosted about 1,200 speakers.
Some speakers included influential individuals like Elon Musk, Al Gore, Bono, Margrethe Vestager, Travis Kalanick, Jack Dorsey, Reed Hastings, Mike Krieger, Eva Longoria, Professor Stephen Hawking, and others. In addition, the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, which is a companion document to the Magna Carta, was also celebrated and represented at the event.
It was held in the Speaker’s Chamber of the House of Commons. Guy Standing’s panel asked, and was themed, on two questions, “Is it the answer to inequality for which we have all been waiting? Or a convenient way for governments to evade the provision of real social services?”
BIEN’s 2022 Congress will be held in Brisbane, Australia, from Monday 26th to Wednesday 28th September 2022. This will be a hybrid face to face and online event. The main face-to-face event will take place in Brisbane.
Call for papers: Abstracts (250—300 words) due by Friday 4 February 2022; please click here for more information.
A Basic Income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. Read more