NEW DELHI: Speaking with the press here after a Congress Working Committee meeting, party president Rahul Gandhi detailed the minimum income support scheme proposed by the Congress as a poverty alleviation measure.

The proposal, called the Nyuntam Aay Yojana – Minimum Income Scheme, shortened to NYAY or justice – aims to ensure an income of at least Rs.12,000 per month to the poorest fifth of households below the poverty line. “The minimum income threshold is 12,000. Any family earning less than this, the government will pay the difference,” Gandhi said.

He described the idea as “extremely powerful, ground-breaking and well thought through,” and said the Congress party had consulted many economists on its design.

If the Congress is voted to power, “we will wipe out poverty from the country,” he said, adding, “It is not acceptable to the Congress that there are poor people in the 21st century. The final assault on poverty is beginning.”

The Congress president termed NYAY the second phase of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. He said, “This will be a fiscally prudent scheme. We will eliminate poverty from the country.”

While economists are still chewing over the details, farmers' leaders have welcomed the move, adding that a lot more would need to be done to abolish poverty from the country.

Speaking to The Citizen, All India Kisan Sabha president Ashok Dhawale described the scheme as “a palliative measure. It is a welcome move but a lot is to be done.”

From the point of view of small farmers and agricultural workers, Dhawale said, “A complete one-time loan waiver has to be implemented, along with the Swaminathan Commission recommendations of providing support amounting to 1.5 times the cost of production, to help the poor farmers.”

“Land distribution to the landless farmers and those with small landholdings should also be the agenda of political parties,” Dhawale added.

Poll promises to eliminate poverty resonate with the 1971 elections, when Indira Gandhi popularised the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’ and made it a point to reach out to the various disprivileged groups of rural India.

‘Garibi Hatao, Desh Bachao’(‘Abolish Poverty, Save the Nation’) was the backdrop of Indira Gandhi’s 1971 re-election bid and was later also used by her son Rajiv Gandhi.