Basic Income is an income that is paid by the government unconditionally to all its citizens. It is paid monthly to every individual irrespective of their social and economic status, i.e., without any means test or work requirement. The basic principle behind is that every citizen is entitled to a basic income, as a matter of right, so as to meet her basic material requirements of life.
The key words in this definition are: unconditional, individual, monthly payment, universal. In its pure form, Basic Income should have all the four elements.
Conditionalities, as they are generally called, usually accompany any welfare giving by the state. That is, in order to receive welfare assistance, whether it is in terms of cash or kind (food grains or other goods), the recipient has to first of all prove that he / she is eligible, and thereafter provide evidence that the assistance given is being used for the purpose for which it is meant. These conditionalities give discretion to the muscle-end of the bureaucracy, which inevitably leads to corruption. This results in what are called ‘inclusion errors’ and ‘exclusion errors’. The inclusion errors refers to a situation wherein those who should not be in the receiving group manage to enter it, and the exclusion errors refer to a situation where those who should be present in the receiving group are excluded. The idea of making basic income unconditional is primarily to overcome these errors.
Basic Income is an entitlement to an individual, be it a child or an adult. It grants economic citizenship to each and every individual in the country, and recognises that person as an active member of the economy - contributing to it, and therefore having a right to partake in the proceeds of the economy.
Why Monthly Payments?
Monthly payments are perhaps the real cutting edge of basic income. A monthly income provides the recipient a future orientation and a sense of security and purpose. Basic income necessarily has to be a monthly income.
Basic Income should be universal because the entitlement comes to each individual in his / her capacity as a citizen. In principle, it is an affirmation of citizenship and a basis for solidarity.
Sarath Davala is an indpendent sociologist based in Hyderabad, India. He may be contacted at email@example.com