Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia, co-founded by Nobel Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, has proposed a pilot project on the concept of inclusive growth dividend (IGD) or “universal basic income” (UBI) in Sundargarh and Keonjhar.
Under the project, the group has proposed UBI for around 400 gram panchayats in these districts which include 65% of the population in Sundargarh district and 69% of the people in Keonjhar district below the poverty line as per the reports of Panchayati Raj department.
This project would ensure functional bank accounts of each of the adults and credit Rs 100 to their accounts every month for two years with a budget of Rs 300 crore. However, for minor children in each of these panchayats who can’t have a bank account, the money will be transferred to their respective mother’s account.
This project is likely to start soon since J- PAL’s recommendation to the government of Odisha explained that IGD might be hugely applicable in the current situation when the upshot of the economic shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 is creating massive stress in almost all sectors of the economy.
Initially, J-PAL group proposed the idea for three districts, i.e. Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh but the government of Odisha could agree for the last two because it can be financed from the District Mineral Fund available there.
J -PAL said that while most income transfer schemes are targeted at households, it’s targeting individual transfers. Here children’s allowances are deposited into the mother’s account, and this could be a game-changer for women empowerment and intra-household targeting. It can help boost women labour-force participation in Odisha, which at 21.6 %, is lower than the national average.
Last year, J-PAL had signed an agreement with the government of Odisha to maximise the impact of the state’s poverty alleviation programmes across a different range of sectors.
Notably, Abhijit Banerjee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2019 along with his wife Esther Duflo and co-researcher Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.He is of Indian origin currently based in America.