Although barely reported in the media, two basic income pilot projects are have been underway in India since January 2011. One pilot is being conducted in part of Delhi and the other in eight small rural villages in Madhya Pradesh. The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) began planning and raising money for the rural project in 2008. The Delhi government eventually joined in, working with SEWA to organize an urban pilot project in Delhi.
Publicity about the project has been deliberately kept low because opponents have been using scare tactics to disrupt and to discourage participation in the project. They have spread rumors that the pilot would lead to the reduction or elimination of existing government support for the poor.
Families participating in the urban project receive 1000 Rupees per month (about US$22). Some participants have reduced access to other government transfers; some participants receive the grant all with full access to other government transfers. In the rural project, adult receive 200 Rupees a month (about US$4.40) and each child under the age of 14 receives 100 Rupees a month (about US$2.20). The project organizers will study the consumption, expenditure, and nutrition of the different groups of participations to a “control” group receiving no additional transfers to determine the impact of cash transfers.
These projects are similar to the Namibian basic income pilot project and to the U.S. and Canadian governments’ Negative Income Tax experiments conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, but the rural project adds an important new innovation to the method: the project is being conducted on the village, rather than on the individual, level. All residents of eight Indian villages will receive the basic income, and their behavior will be compared with residents of twelve “control” villages. This method will allow project designers to study village-wide effects of the transfer.
Guy Standing, professor of economic security at Bath University (UK) and an honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network, helped to conceive and organize the project. He argues that it needs to be conducted with scientific dispassion. But he’s hopeful of the outcome. Asked about the results of the Namibian pilot project—which he was also a part of—Standing said that organizers documented many positive effects: “Child school attendance went up dramatically, use of medical clinics went up. Those with HIV/ AIDS started to take ARTs (Antiretroviral Therapy drugs) because they’d been able to buy the right sort of food with the cash. Women’s economic status improved, and the economic crime rate went down. Income distribution improved.”
For more about the projects see an interview with Guy Standing in The Times of India: