Table of Contents

Discussions of a UBI in India owe their provenance to many of the same trends fueling the concept’s rise in advanced economies, including concerns about technologically driven unemployment and poorly targeted welfare programs, an aggressive policy push in favor of cash transfers and public debate regarding its role in poverty alleviation, and experiments to examine the impact of basic income grants.

The GiveDirectly pilot would seem miniscule compared to a UBI implemented in a country like India that has more than 1 billion citizens.1 Given the scale of both the fiscal transfers and the benefiting populations, an Indian UBI could not be donor-financed like the GiveDirectly experiment; instead, it would be the first state-administered basic income program in the developing world. A UBI in India not only would reimagine the social contract between 1.3 billion citizens and their state but also could provide a blueprint for every other low- and middle-income country wanting to take the plunge. The news, in September 2016, that India’s chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian, was actively exploring a UBI policy for the annual Economic Survey garnered considerable media attention and attracted comments from senior government officials.2

The Economic Survey is the Indian Ministry of Finance’s annual overview of the economy. It is submitted to the Indian Parliament prior to the release of the government’s budget and has served in the past as a vehicle for policy trial balloons. The 2009–10 survey, for example, discussed replacing subsidies with a system of food coupons or direct cash transfers, an idea now being implemented.3 The idea of a basic income garnered further attention following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to demonetize the country’s high-value currency bills, as many theorized that a one-time income transfer would be unveiled in the budget to help ease the economic shock of the move.4 While such a cash infusion did not materialize, the promised chapter in the Economic Survey did.

The Employment Argument

India is among the many developing nations concerned that growing automation is a precursor to a crisis of insufficient employment. Previously, the well-theorized path to economic growth for emerging economies involved building a large, labor-intensive manufacturing sector that would grow more productive and would churn out more diverse and sophisticated goods over time. This, in turn, would drive economy-wide industrialization and would hasten an eventual transition to a service economy, at which point deindustrialization—a fall in manufacturing as a share of aggregate gross domestic product (GDP)—would occur. According to the political economist Dani Rodrik, this relationship has broken down in recent years, a trend he labels “premature deindustrialization.”5 Undergoing structural transformations due to technological changes and trade liberalization, developing economies are finding that it is surprisingly hard to become a manufacturing powerhouse. As a result, they are either partially industrializing or not industrializing at all, instead skipping ahead to the service-economy stage of economic development.

The manufacturing sectors in these developing economies are shrinking at ever earlier stages of economic development compared to those of advanced economies.

The manufacturing sectors in these developing economies are shrinking at ever earlier stages of economic development compared to those of advanced economies. India’s deindustrialization, for example, began when per capita income was $2,000, compared to per capita income levels of $9,000–$11,000 (at 1990 prices) for the United States, the UK, and Germany; meanwhile the Indian manufacturing sector’s share of employment peaked when India’s per capita income was $700, compared to a $14,000 figure for Sweden, the UK, and Italy.6 Previous research by Subramanian finds that this trend is mirrored across nearly all Indian states, a fact that presents a difficult and worrying dilemma: “Should [India] try to rehabilitate unskilled manufacturing or should it accept that that is now unachievable and create the groundwork for sustaining the skill intensive pattern of growth?”7 India’s prospects for economic growth and employment generation, in many ways, hinge on the answer to this question. A fall in new employment in India’s organized sector over the past decade and the country’s slowing overall job creation rate are further cause for concern.8 If Indian policymakers fail either to create opportunities for unskilled labor or to equip future entrants into the labor force with the education required for high-skill employment, calls for a drastic expansion of the country’s social safety net will likely increase.

The Theory Behind Just Giving Cash

Yale economist T. N. Srinivasan writes that Indian elites discussed a minimum income standard as early as 1938, and a program for providing such a grant was on the anvil in 1964.9 India’s contemporary interest in a UBI has emerged from a far more recent debate among the country’s development policymakers on whether direct cash transfers deliver benefits and alleviate poverty more efficiently than in-kind transfer programs like the public distribution system (PDS) or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).10

Some policymakers have critiqued claims about a UBI’s benefits, saying that such transfers will be no magic bullet.

This discussion originated from a 2008 series of essays in a peer-reviewed academic journal called the Economic & Political Weekly.11 In one piece, political scientist Devesh Kapur, economist Partha Mukhopadhyay, and Arvind Subramanian (then with the Peterson Institute for International Economics) argued for replacing centrally sponsored poverty schemes with cash transfers.12 The authors cited structural inefficiencies in these schemes—enormous amounts of leakage to the nonpoor, high barriers to enrollment, inaccurate identification of eligible individuals, and substantial administrative costs; they contended that only a miniscule proportion of benefits actually reached India’s poor. The authors highlighted the key culprits as an administrative culture that lacked accountability and an underdeveloped state capacity. As an alternative, they proposed rerouting public expenditures into a system of direct cash transfers that would expand recipients’ spending choices and reduce financial constraints, alongside a recommended increase in funding and resources for local government institutions that are better placed to monitor and implement such transfers (as opposed to overburdened state- or district-level administrators).

Other policymakers critiqued these claims. A former member of the erstwhile Planning Commission named Mihir Shah argued that such transfers were “no magic bullet,” and that given the widespread failure of rural markets across India, giving the poor cash that they cannot utilize is a wasted effort.13 In the absence of concomitant improvements in public institutions and private markets, Shah contended, cash transfers would do little to guarantee food security or generate sustainable livelihoods in comparison to the PDS or MGNREGA. The debate has evolved since that exchange, as academic circles have held conferences to examine the suitability of cash transfers; meanwhile, successive central governments have introduced several cash-transfer schemes.14 This discourse forms the intellectual bedrock for India’s basic income debate.

Doing Welfare Differently

One reason a UBI does not seem like an entirely alien addition to India’s policy terrain is because the government has already undertaken a concerted effort to convert in-kind benefits into cash and cash-assisted in-kind transfers. In 2012, the United Progressive Alliance government headed by then prime minister Manmohan Singh announced plans to reform the government’s vast subsidy apparatus by making payments directly into beneficiaries’ bank accounts.15 Underpinning this initiative would be a unique ID, a twelve-digit Aadhaar number, issued to every Indian citizen by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Connecting individuals’ Aadhaar numbers to their bank accounts would “reduce leakages, cut down corruption, eliminate middlemen, target beneficiaries better, and speed up transfer of benefits to eligible individuals,” Singh declared.16

While India was no stranger to cash transfers, the size and scale involved in creating the world’s largest database of demographic and biometric data to restructure the delivery of welfare entitlements was unprecedented. Prior to this reform, the Indian government had operated centrally administered cash-transfer programs like targeted unconditional pensions to the elderly, the differently abled, and widows through the National Social Assistance Program, as well as a program called the Janani Suraksha Yojana, which seeks to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes by using cash to incentivize institutional deliveries.17 Both programs have been extensively evaluated and, despite a high degree of variation across Indian states, found to have broadly positive respective effects in the form of increased pension utilization and uptake in maternity services and institutional deliveries. That said, these programs remained small components of India’s overall social welfare architecture.18

Starting in January 2013, scholarships and pensions were converted into direct benefits transfers (DBT) for beneficiaries in certain Indian districts, and the government intended to later tackle big-ticket subsidies (with the widest distribution and the most leakage) for items like food, fertilizer, and kerosene.19 In mid-2013, the government announced plans to deliver subsidies for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) directly to consumers in twenty Indian districts.20 But direct benefits transfers for LPG were hamstrung by the slow pace with which Aadhaar numbers were linked to bank accounts, by worries that deserving beneficiaries were being excluded, and by an interim order from the Supreme Court stating that receiving welfare benefits was not contingent on possessing an Aadhaar number; DBT for LPG was suspended six months later.21

The fate of Aadhaar-linked DBT remained unclear until July 2014, when newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his approval for continuing Aadhaar enrollment for Indian citizens and accelerating DBT rollout in districts with substantial Aadhaar coverage.22 DBT received additional momentum from the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), a program predicated on the government’s push for financial inclusion through bank accounts; a relaunch of DBT for LPG in November 2014; and wage payments to MGNREGA workers.23

The 2014–15 Economic Survey proposed implementing DBT using what became known as the JAM trinity—an effort to link individuals’ PMJDY accounts, Aadhaar numbers, and mobile phone numbers—so as to plug leakages, improve beneficiary targeting, and securely distribute benefits.24 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley endorsed JAM in India’s 2015 budget, and Prime Minister Modi’s approval followed shortly after.25 DBT has grown substantially since.26 As of October 2017, the UIDAI has issued 1.18 billion Aadhaar numbers.27 The central government intended to have 536 centrally sponsored welfare schemes implement DBT by the end of 2017.28 When the majority of central welfare schemes can deliver welfare benefits directly into the bank accounts of eligible Indian citizens, it will likely become substantially more feasible to administer a consolidated transfer—or a basic income grant. Chief Economic Adviser Subramanian indicated as much when describing the full potential of the JAM trinity: “Imagine the possibility of rolling all subsidies into a single lump-sum cash transfer to households, an idea mooted decades ago by the economist Milton Friedman as the holy grail of efficient and equitable welfare policy. JAM makes this possible.”29

An Indian UBI: Proposals and Critiques

Driven by a confluence of the above factors, debate on an Indian UBI has grown in intensity in the past five years. Its supporters cite it as an improvement over ineffective antipoverty interventions and inefficient subsidies, the latter of which they claim are largely consumed by the affluent and damage the country’s fiscal health. Detractors worry that a UBI would disincentivize work and that it would be a premature step in India’s development arc given the urgency of increasing spending on competing priorities like funding education and healthcare, as well as enforcing and expanding existing entitlements. Similar to the UBI policy discourse worldwide, the emerging flash points in the Indian debate revolve around the primary questions of cost and political priorities, and secondary questions of which programs to put on the chopping block and how to administer transfer delivery.

Several Indian economists have proposed some form of a UBI and have outlined varying transfer amounts and their fiscal implications (see table 1 for a summary). Pranab Bardhan, a University of California, Berkeley economist and an early proponent, wrote in 2011 that a UBI is “one of the cleanest and least incentive-disruptive ideas” for enhancing social welfare protection in India. Elsewhere, he argued that a UBI for developing nations like India would be far preferable to the complicated task of identifying the poor and would be fiscally achievable given that the country’s poverty thresholds are relatively low and a smaller transfer would suffice.30 He recommended an inflation-indexed annual transfer of 10,000 rupees—75 percent of India’s 2014–15 poverty line—to every Indian citizen, which would cost an estimated 10 percent of India’s GDP.31 Maitreesh Ghatak of the London School of Economics proposed a more liberal annual transfer of 13,432 rupees, which would cost 11 percent of GDP, so as to push recipients’ incomes over the poverty line entirely and to empower workers. Oxford University’s Vijay Joshi recommended a smaller grant, as part of a broader recalibration of public expenditures, equal to 20 percent of the poverty line: 3,500 rupees per year at a cost of 3.5 percent of GDP. Abhijit Banerjee of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), meanwhile, suggested a minimum weekly income of 250 rupees for each adult resident (13,000 rupees per year) in place of assorted subsidies and welfare programs.32

  Population Coverage Annual Transfer Amount Cost as % of GDP Financing Mechanisms
Pranab Bardhan (2016) All ₹10,000 10% Roll-back ‘non-merit’ subsidies: 9% of GDP
Eliminate corporate tax holidays and exemptions: 3% of the GDP
Vijay Joshi (2016) All ₹3,500 3.5% (alternatively, 2.5% and 1.9% of GDP if transfers are paid only to 67% and 50% of the population) Roll-back ‘non-merit’ and food subsidies: 8.5% of GDP
Savings from tax exemptions: 1.5% of GDP
Privatization of public sector enterprises: 1% of GDP
Taxing agricultural incomes (for a courageous government): 0.5% of GDP
Remove dysfunctional social welfare schemes: 0.5%
Maitreesh Ghatak (2016) All ₹13,432 11% Roll-back subsidies going to the non-poor: 9% of GDP
Raise additional taxes
Debraj Ray (2016) All ₹10,000–₹13,000 9-12% Commit a fixed fraction of GDP: 9-12%
Abhijit Banerjee (2016) All ₹13,000 11% Replace welfare schemes like the PDS and MGNREGA
Reetika Khera (2016) All elderly, widows, disabled persons (approximately 10% of the population), and pregnant women (approximately 26 million children born annually) Pensions – ₹12,000
Maternity entitlements per child – ₹6,000
Economic Survey 2016-17 (2017) Bottom 75% of the income distribution ₹7620/₹6540 4.9%/4.2% Roll-back social sector programs: 2.07% of GDP
Implicit ‘middle-class’ subsidies: 1.05% of GDP
Top ten centrally sponsored schemes: 1.38% of GDP

The fiscal space for such transfers, according to Bardhan and Joshi, would come chiefly from rolling back certain nonmerit subsidies on items such as fuel, fertilizer, and electricity that disproportionately benefit relatively well-off Indians.33 The leading estimate available when these proposals were put forth was from a 2003 study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, which calculated that these subsidies comprise 8 percent of GDP based on central and state budgetary data from 1998–99.34 Bardhan suggested that additional savings worth 3 percent of GDP could be accrued by eliminating certain corporate tax holidays and customs-duty exemptions.35 Joshi also advocated for trimming tax exemptions and doing away with nonperforming poverty alleviation schemes.36 In line with his larger proposal, Ghatak maintained that a UBI would require additional taxation and an expanded tax base.37 For Banerjee, a universal basic subsidy could replace the PDS and MGNREGA along with other welfare schemes. By instituting weekly verification for beneficiaries, it could deter the rich from take-up and limit misappropriation.38 Finally, New York University economist Debraj Ray tweaked the UBI idea into a proposal for a universal basic share, which would not consist of a pledged transfer of a specific amount of money, but rather a government commitment to pay out a fixed proportion of the country’s GDP that could vary with changes in national income.39

Indian UBI supporters cite it as an improvement over ineffective antipoverty interventions and inefficient subsidies, the latter of which they claim are largely consumed by the affluent and damage the country’s fiscal health.

The idea of an Indian UBI has drawn criticism and counterproposals from several quarters as well. Economic Times consulting editor Swaminathan Aiyar outlined two key substantive critiques in a 2016 column.40 First, he claimed that universal entitlements cannot empower the poor the way a concerted improvement of public goods and services can; he asserted that such entitlements may even erode familial and work ties. This concern was mirrored in NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant’s remarks at the 2017 World Economic Forum, where he suggested that the Indian state give below-poverty-line families 1,000 rupees per month in the form of interest-free loans expressly for productive use.41

Aiyar’s other concern is with the priorities of public finances—for the cost of implementing a UBI, should the government not instead boost spending on public services?42 On a related note, development economists Reetika Khera and Jean Drèze, along with a member of parliament from the Indian National Congress named P. Chidambaram, were skeptical that it would be as politically feasible to roll back India’s corporate tax exemptions or nonmerit subsidies as Bardhan and Joshi had suggested.43 Further, both Khera and Drèze pointed out that the amount of fiscal resources allocated for these subsidies had decreased since the collection of the budgetary data Bardhan and Joshi used to draw their conclusions, implying that cutting these subsidies would not yield sufficient fiscal room for a UBI initiative.44

There are several economists who assert that using cash transfers to make a sizable dent in poverty would require India to scrap existing welfare programs.

In fact, there are several economists who assert that using cash transfers to make a sizable dent in poverty would require India to scrap existing welfare programs. After all, many conservative and libertarian advocates of a basic income in advanced economies have long maintained that a UBI must replace centrally administered, safety net programs for it to be affordable and significantly improve social welfare resource allocation.45 In the case of India, economist Surjit Bhalla recommended carving out the fiscal space for an income grant, targeted to the bottom quintile of the country’s income distribution, in part by dismantling key welfare programs like the PDS and MGNREGA, which have been known to perform suboptimally for years.46 Taken together, the world’s largest public works program and food distribution network comprise roughly 1.3 percent of India’s GDP.47

In contrast, Drèze, who supports a basic income in principle, has expressed concerns about India’s preparedness to administer the delivery and receipt of cash transfers as well as the instability that would be engendered by withholding in-kind transfers.48 To expand India’s social safety net without sacrificing existing entitlements, both Khera and Drèze recommend that the country gradually phase in a cost-effective UBI by offering universal maternity entitlements (under the National Food Security Act, all pregnant women are entitled to 6,000 rupees per pregnancy) and making social security pensions universal for the elderly, widows, and the differently abled under the National Social Assistance Program.49

Taken together, these diverse perspectives illuminate difficult questions that mark the fault lines along which the policy discourse is likely to splinter if India moves to institute a UBI. Would the program’s goal be to create a floor for living standards or to provide a ladder to escape poverty? How much money should a basic income provide, and what financing strategy would underpin these transfers? And ultimately, can the Indian state design and implement an income-transfer system that does not reduce citizens’ net welfare?

Empirical Experiments in India

Worldwide research findings on cash transfers offer strikingly consistent evidence of the positive role of conditional cash transfers in incentivizing investments in human capital, and the role of unconditional transfers in providing social pensions and emergency support. But no country has tried a long-term national UBI thoroughly enough to develop a deep theoretical framework that explains its degree of success or provide a convincing body of evidence in its favor. This is an issue of policy design. A UBI demands a high initial investment and an overhaul of a country’s welfare machinery (and one that is fairly nascent in the case of most developing nations). The various pilots under way at the moment, especially those administered by government agencies in countries like Finland, will help remedy this lack of data in coming years.

Until such evidence is collected and analyzed, Indian policymakers can be encouraged by the results of two important studies testing the impact of unconditional cash grants in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi; these pilots represent a powerful opening argument in favor of a UBI in India and perhaps other developing nations. The first study tested the effects of unconditional cash transfers when offered in addition to existing public services, while the latter examined their impact when given as a replacement for the existing food subsidy.

From January to December 2011, as part of a United Nations Development Program–Government of Delhi partnership, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the state government carried out a randomized controlled trial. It measured the impact—specifically on food security, nutrition, and wasteful expenses—of replacing subsidized food through the PDS with unconditional cash transfers to households below the poverty line. The India Development Foundation conducted the study, which gave a randomly selected group of 100 households (from 450 total households that were part of the experiment) in New Delhi 1,000 rupees per month.50 This amount was deposited into bank accounts opened in the name of the female head of participating households. The experiment observed no reduction in per-capita calorie consumption in households receiving cash transfers, while expenditures on nutritious noncereal items like pulses (the edible seeds from legumes), fish, eggs, and meat increased. Further, the authors found little evidence that cash transfers increased spending on alcohol or nonfood expenses. Regular, targeted, unconditional cash transfers in lieu of the PDS did not seem to harm food security or encourage wasteful spending.

A more ambitious version of this experiment took place in Madhya Pradesh from June 2011 to November 2012, where SEWA and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched two pilots to examine the impact of unconditional, monthly transfers through modified random control trials.51 In the first, every adult received 200 rupees and every child received 100 rupees each month—amounts later raised to 300 rupees and 150 rupees respectively to account for inflation—in eight villages for seventeen months. Their experiences were compared with those of twelve similar control villages that received no transfers. In the second pilot, every adult and child in a tribal village received 300 rupees and 150 rupees each month respectively for an entire year, while another tribal village acted as a control. In all, more than 6,000 individuals received a basic income for twelve to seventeen months.

The Madhya Pradesh pilots differed from the Delhi study in a few notable ways. First, they were universal; every individual in a treatment village, irrespective of gender or level of wealth, received a cash transfer directly into their bank account. Second, these grants were provided above and beyond existing welfare programs, not as a substitute payment for giving up entitlements under a particular scheme. Third, this was the latest in a total of only eight UBI pilots worldwide in the last fifty years—it was the only one in Asia and the second such experiment in the developing world.52

The 2011–2012 UBI pilots in Madhya Pradesh showed that a basic income was transformative for participants.

The results, according to Guy Standing, a professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and a principal researcher on the pilots, showed that a basic income was transformative for participants.53 The researchers found that the grant, worth approximately one-quarter of median-income families’ monthly earnings, significantly improved living conditions: households receiving basic income could access better public and private sources of drinking water, while those in tribal villages purchased significantly more household assets. Households in both the general and tribal pilots reported that the basic income increased their food sufficiency, and this had a concomitant, statistically significant impact on children’s nutrition. Neither pilot indicated a rise in alcohol consumption. The uptake of education and health services grew—the use of private healthcare and health insurance rose significantly for basic income villages compared to control villages, as did spending on schooling, especially for female students. The basic incomes also stimulated economic activity: the probability that individuals would diversify their economic activities was far greater in basic income villages than in control villages, and the number of hours participants worked similarly increased.54

Despite such striking overall results, a robust caveat is necessary before determining their policy relevance. While the results did little to diminish the case for a basic income, their generalizability is limited to demonstrating the impact of unconditional cash transfers among small, predefined populations in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh. That is to say, while the studies were internally valid, extrapolating their findings to larger contexts is fraught with risk.

Development economists and leading proponents of the randomized controlled trial method Esther Duflo, Rachel Glennerster, and Michael Kremer point out three issues that deserve further investigation.55 In short, it is impossible to be certain that similar effects will be found across implementing agencies, state boundaries, and socioeconomic groups as a basic income is scaled up. First, determining the general equilibrium effects of scaling up such programs temporally or spatially—the indirect economic impact of long-term income grants on regional economic activity, government finances, and the prices of essentials—is important for gauging the aggregate market and welfare effects of a basic income system. Second, if the participants of a study know they are being monitored, they might act differently than they would if they were unobserved. Third, it is hard to generalize from the specific treatment used and the particular population studied in an experiment when applying lessons to real program implementation. This underscores how critically important it is that the Indian state conducts sufficiently large pilots in terms of geographical scope and number of individuals so as to seek to capture the spillover effects of regular, unconditional, universal cash transfers at scale.

In the meantime, the Indian state must answer, with absolute clarity, the policy questions of financing, targeting, and state capacity raised by the prospect of an Indian UBI. To that end, the 2016–17 Economic Survey is a remarkable contribution to articulating how India would approach a transformation of its welfare architecture of this magnitude.


1 “Population, Total,” World Bank, accessed January 19, 2018,

2 Meera Mohanty, “Next Economic Survey Might Float Universal Basic Income Balloon,” Economic Times, September 5, 2016,; Rukmini S., “Here’s the Behind-the-Scenes Thinking About a Universal Basic Income for Every Indian Citizen,” Huffington Post, January 10, 2017,; and Vaidyanathan Iyer, “No Fiscal Resources for Universal Basic Income: NITI Aayog Chief Arvind Panagariya,” Indian Express, January 25, 2017,

3 Ministry of Finance, “Micro-foundations of Inclusive Growth” in Economic Survey 2009-10 (Delhi: Government of India, 2009), 25–27

4 Abheek Barua, Tushar Arora, Tanvi Garg, and Sakshi Gupta, “Budget Expectations 2017,” HDFC Bank, January 2017,; Anirban Nag, “Little Room for India to Beat Cash Ban Gloom With Budget Goodies,” Bloomberg, January 27, 2017,

5 Dani Rodrik, “Premature Deindustrialization,” Journal of Economic Growth 21 (2016): 1–33; Dani Rodrik, “The Perils of Premature Deindustrialization,” Project Syndicate, October 11, 2016,

6 Ibid.

7 Amrit Amirapu and Arvind Subramanian, “Manufacturing Futures,” Business Standard, May 9, 2014,; Amrit Amirapu and Arvind Subramanian, “Manufacturing or Services? An Indian Illustration of a Development Dilemma,” Center for Global Development, Working Paper no. 409, June 2015.

8 “OECD Economic Surveys: India,” Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), February 2017,

9 T. N. Srinivasan, “Minimum Standard of Living for All Indians,” Ideas for India,September 30, 2016,

10 “PDS Portal of India,” Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, accessed July 5, 2017,; Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, “The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” accessed July 5, 2017,

11 Pramit Bhattacharya, “Cash Transfers: Miracle or Mirage?,” LiveMint, November 28, 2017,

12 Devesh Kapur, Partha Mukhopadhyay, and Arvind Subramanian, “The Case for Direct Cash Transfers to the Poor,” Economic & Political Weekly 43, no. 15 (April 12–18, 2008), 37–41, 43.

13 Mihir Shah, “Direct Cash Transfers: No Magic Bullet,” Economic & Political Weekly, August 23, 2008, vol. 43, no. 34.

14 Devesh Kapur, “The Shift to Cash Transfers: Running Better but on the Wrong Road?” Economic & Political Weekly 46, no. 21 (May 21, 2011); Arup Roychoudhury, “High-Profile Delhi Economics Conclave on Friday,” Business Standard, November 3, 2015,; and “Economists, Social Scientists Root for Basic Income in India,” International Development Research Center, August 06, 2017,

15 Rajesh Roy and Romit Guha, “India to Launch World’s Biggest Cash-to-the-Poor Program,” Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2012,

16 Manmohan Singh, “PM’s Speech at FICCI Annual General Meeting,” Prime Minister’s Office, December 15, 2012,

17 National Social Assistance Program, “Dashboard w.r.t. Data Digitized,” Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, accessed July 7, 2017,; and National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, “Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY),” Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, accessed July 7, 2017,

18 Stephen S. Lim, et al., “India’s Janani Suraksha Yojana, a Conditional Cash Transfer Programme to Increase Births in Health Facilities: An Impact Evaluation,” Lancet 375, no. 9730 (June 5–11, 2010): 2009–23; Puja Dutta, Rinku Murgai, and Stephen Howes, “Small but Effective: India’s Targeted Unconditional Cash Transfers,” Economic & Political Weekly 45, no. 52 (December 25, 2010); and Ruchi Jain, Sonalde Desai, and Reeve Vanneman, “Janani Suraksha Yojana and Declining Socioeconomic Inequalities in Maternal Healthcare in Rural India,” India Human Development Survey, September 29, 2016.

19 ET Bureau, “Direct Cash Transfer in 20 Districts From Today,” Economic Times, January 1, 2013,; Amy Kazmin, “India: Cash in Hand,” Financial Times, March 14, 2013,

20 “Petroleum Minister Announces Launch of Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG Scheme in 20 Districts,” Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India, May 15, 2013,

21 Shine Jacob and Vrishti Beniwal, “Pace of Seeding Aadhaar Numbers With Bank Accounts Still a Concern,” Business Standard, June 8, 2013,; “Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v/s Union of India,” Supreme Court of India, Writ Petition (Civil) no. 494, September 23, 2013; “Govt Cuts LPG Dole Link With Aadhaar, Raises Cylinder Cap,” Business Standard, January 31, 2014,

22 Sahil Makkar, Nitin Sethi, and Surabhi Agarwal, “Modi Backs UIDAI, Seeks Accelerated DBT Rollout,” Business Standard, July 5, 2014,

23 “PM Launches Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana,” Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India, August 28, 2014,; “Modified Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme to Be Relaunched in the Country,” Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Government of India, October 18, 2014,; “Launch of PAHAL (DBTL) Scheme on 1st January 2015 in Entire Country,” Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India, December 31, 2014,; “Government Is Committed to Strengthen MGNREGA, Says Jaitley,” Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, February 2, 2016,

24 Ministry of Finance, “‘Wiping Every Tear From Every Eye’: The JAM Number Trinity Solution,” in Economic Survey 2014–15 (Delhi: Government of India, 2014), 52–65,; Ministry of Finance, “Spreading JAM Across India’s Economy” in Economic Survey 2015–16 (Delhi: Government of India, 2015), 50–67,

25 “General Budget 2015–16: Highlights and Summary,” Government of India, February 28, 2015,; “Text of Prime Minister’s inaugural address at Delhi Economics Conclave,” Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India, November 6, 2015,

26 Vikram Srinivas and Avani Kapur, “Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM) GOI, 2017–18,” Center for Policy Research, Budget Briefs 9, no. 6, accessed July 5, 2017,

27 “Dashboard Summary,” Unique Identification Authority of India, accessed on October 1, 2017,

28 Surabhi, “Centre Gears Up to Expand Direct Transfers to All 536 Schemes,” Hindu, February 24, 2017,

29 See Siddharth George and Arvind Subramanian, “Transforming the Fight Against Poverty in India,” New York Times, July 22, 2015,

30 Pranab Bardhan, “Could a Basic Income Help Poor Countries?,” Project Syndicate, June 22, 2016,

31 Pranab Bardhan, “Basic Income in a Poor Country,” Ideas for India, September 26, 2016,

32 Maitreesh Ghatak, “The Price of Basic Income,” Indian Express, July 1, 2016,; Vijay Joshi, “Universal Basic Income for India,” Ideas for India, October 21, 2016,; Abhijit Banerjee, “The Best Way to Welfare,” Indian Express, June 18, 2016,

33 Ministry of Finance, “Bounties for the Well-Off,” in Economic Survey 2015-16 (Delhi: Government of India, 2015), 95–104

34 D. K. Srivastava, C. Bhujanga Rao, Pinaki Chakraborty, and T. S. Rangamannar, Budgetary Subsidies in India: Subsidising Social and Economic Services (New Delhi, India: National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, March 2003).

35 Bardhan, “Basic Income in a Poor Country.”

36 Joshi, “Universal Basic Income for India”; Vijay Joshi, India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 212–3.

37 Ghatak, “The Price of Basic Income.”

38 Abhijit Banerjee, “The Best Way to Welfare,” June 18, 2016

39 Debraj Ray, “The Universal Basic Share,” Ideas for India, September 29, 2016,

41 PTI, “Universal Basic Income Only as Repayable Loan: Amitabh Kant,” Economic Times, January 18, 2017,

42 “The Social Protection Indicator: Assessing Results for Asia,” Asian Development Bank, 2016,, accessed July 5, 2017.

43 Reetika Khera, “A Phased Approach Will Make a ‘Basic Income’ Affordable for India,” Wire, December 20, 2016,; Jean Drèze, “Universal Basic Income for India Suddenly Trendy, “Look Out,” NDTV, January 16, 2017,; P. Chidambaram, “Across the Aisle: It Is a Balloon, It Is a Kite!,” Indian Express, January 22, 2017,

44 Sudipto Mundle and Satadru Sikdar, “Budget Subsidies of the Central Government and 14 Major Indian States: 1987–88 and 2011–12,” Ideas for India, March 14, 2017,

45 See Charles Murray, In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State (Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2006); Matt Zwolinski, “The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee,” CATO Unbound, August 4, 2014,

46 Surjit S. Bhalla, “No Proof Required: Financing Basic Income for the Bottom 50 Per Cent,” Indian Express, January 7, 2017, For updated calculations and a negative-income tax proposal, see Bhalla and Arvind Virmani, “No Proof Required: Taxing Your Way to Popularity,” Indian Express, January 19, 2017,

47 Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Outcome Budget 2017-2018 (Delhi: Government of India, 2017), 32 and 111,; “World Economic Outlook Database,” International Monetary Fund, October 2016,

48 Jean Drèze, “The Cash Mantra,” Indian Express, May 11, 2017,; Jean Drèze, “JAM and the Pursuit of Nirvana,” Wire, November 6, 2015,

49 “The National Food Security Act,” Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, 2013, 3,; see also “Ministry of Rural Development: National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP),” National Informatics Center, accessed January 22, 2018,

50 Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Robert Lensink, and Bhupesh Yadav, “Cash or In-Kind Transfers? Evidence From a Randomised Controlled Trial in Delhi, India,” Journal of Development Studies 51, no. 6 (2015).

51 SEWA Bharat, “A Little More, How Much It Is . . . Piloting Basic Income Transfers in Madhya Pradesh, India,” SEWA Madhya Pradesh, January 2014,

52 “Basic Income,” GiveDirectly,, accessed July 5, 2017.

53 Guy Standing, “Basic Income Paid to the Poor Can Transform Lives,” Guardian, December 18, 2014,

54 Sarath Davala, Guy Standing, Renana Jhabvala, and Soumya Kapoor Mehta, Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (New Delhi, India: Bloomsbury Publishing India, 2014), SEWA Bharat, “A Little More, How Much It Is.”

55 See Esther Duflo, Rachel Glennerster, and Michael Kremer, “Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit,” in Handbook of Development Economics 4 (2007): 3895–962. Examples of general equilibrium analysis of cash-transfer programs include David P. Coady and Rebecca Lee Harris, “A Regional General Equilibrium Analysis of the Welfare Impact of Cash Transfers,” No. 76, International Food Policy Research Institute(IFPRI), 2001; and Ayele Gelan, “Cash or Food Aid? A General Equilibrium Analysis for Ethiopia,” Development Policy Review 24, no. 5 (2006): 601–24.