Nearly 1 crore women in Tamil Nadu may get covered under the State government’s scheme of universal basic income — ‘Magalir Urimai Thogai’.
Though the State Budget, presented on Monday, is silent on the likely figure of beneficiaries, the tally is expected to be 1 crore, if one is to go purely by the allotment of₹7,000 crore for the scheme, which is expected to be launched in September and entails the payment of assistance at a rate of ₹1,000 per month.
However, an official, who was part of the team that prepared the budget, says no figure has been arrived at as guidelines for eligibility have not yet been finalised. “What we have done is a token allocation,” the official points out. There is another view in the bureaucracy that the number may eventually exceed the 1 crore mark.
In addition to income tax payees, employees of governments – Central or State public sector enterprises – and property tax assessees, the scheme may not cover payees of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Beneficiaries of the Old Age Pension Scheme will also be left out. There is an expectation among them about the hike in their amount of assistance as the government has enhanced the pension from ₹1,000 to ₹1,500.
A cross-section of officials, who had worked on the Budget, is of the view that leaving aside the “most attractive element” of ‘Magalir Urimai Thogai’, the Budget has “many features” that have a direct bearing on the State’s economy.
“It gives a strong push for infrastructure, information technology (IT) and skilling,” says one of the officials, adding this is in addition to measures such as the expansion of the breakfast scheme, a Chola museum, phase II of the Hogenakkal Combined Water Supply Scheme, Adyar river restoration and the fixation of a target of ₹30,000 crore for credit linkage to self-help groups against about ₹25,000 crore for the current year.
In the area of infrastructure, the extension of the Metro Rail project to Coimbatore and Madurai is cited as an example. With respect of IT, the establishment of a T.N. Tech City in Chennai and Coimbatore and the installation of free Wi-Fi zones in a number of cities are some of the steps to be taken. The decisions to upgrade 54 government polytechnics as centres of excellence and set up TN-WISH reflect the government’s sustained interest in the field of skill development, the officials add.