Issue 109

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REAL MEDIA 2018 / ISSUE 109 9 INDIA'S BASIC INCOME TRIALS – SARATH DAVALA 'There are five elements to the experiment we did. One, which is the moral definition of the basic income, it was universal. It's individual, it's not to the household. It's cash, not food coupons or any other non- cash method. It is through a bank account – direct transfer, and it is unconditional. But if you look at all these elements, they are not that radical actually. You have so many welfare schemes which are universal, which are individual - scholarships are individual, pensions are cash – what is so radical about basic income? 'Really the cutting edge, what's radical about basic income is it's unconditional. It's not means-tested, you don't have to prove that you deserve it. You don't have to prove that you're poor. So this is the most difficult thing for anyone to digest, including the recipients. 'To be honest when I first started getting into this project in 2010 and we were drawing up the proposals, I myself was not very convinced about giving cash. I thought it could be a cultural knee jerk reaction. It was quite surprising to see how people have made use of it. Completely defying all the notions we have about people. 'A majority of the people are subsistence farmers, some of them will be wage labourers, but a bulk of them are small farmers - they have a patch of land, 1 acre or 10 acres - and they are wage labourers. 'When we give [basic income] to them for 18 months it benefitted the most marginalised sections of society – the poorest, the women, the disabled people, people who are mentally ill. Those people benefitted the most. There was a remarkable improvement in nutrition so that was the people really, they made use of it. 'When you inject cash into an economy like that, that subsistence level, the emancipatory value is so great, far greater than the monetary value when you add it up. One of our friends was saying individual data is almost useless. When you have one person, the whole family pools the money over three months, it's a lot of money for them – it made a big impact on the choices they made.' Watch the full interview at We caught up with sociologist Sarath Davala who has been researching Basic Income during trials in India. In our interview he explains the successes and the misconceptions about the scheme. Catch the full interview at

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