Despite a four-fold growth in GDP since the early 1990s, India’s rural economy has undergone a crisis and job opportunities have dwindled. The number of employed rural women fell by 31% from 2011-12 to 2017-18, compared to a 6% reduction in the number of employed men. While men have migrated to whatever limited non-farming jobs are available within villages or in cities, women have been left to perform low-paid, lower-skilled and often exploitative farm jobs, even as they run the household in the absence of their migrant menfolk.
In late March 2019, the Congress party announced that it would implement a basic minimum income guarantee scheme if voted to power in the general elections. It is estimated to cost up to 1.8% of India’s current GDP. Development economist Abhijit Banerjee, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and one of the economists consulted while formulating the scheme, talks about the scheme’s financial viability, the need for India to impose a wealth tax, and the quality of government data and interference in its estimation.