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P Chidambaram defends Congress' NYAY scheme for India's poor

Congress has promised that if it forms the next government, it would ensure that Rs 6,000 is given to each of India's poorest 20% families.

P Chidambaram defends Congress' NYAY scheme for India's poor
File photo

New Delhi: P Chidambaram on Wednesday mounted a defence of NYAY, Congress' primary pre-poll promise of financial help for India's poorest, by saying that the country has the ability to pay the amount.

Party president Rahul Gandhi had announced the scheme earlier this week and had touted it as a surgical strike on poverty. Under it, he said that if Congress forms the next government in the country, Rs 6,000 would be paid per month each to 20% of India's poorest families. While BJP has termed it as nothing more than an election stunt, Chidambaram - finance minister in the UPA government - said it was possible. ""We believe India has the capacity to implement this program. We have taken into account all factors - consumption patterns, varied incomes, what is required to keep a family above the poverty line," he said. "We believe that the Government of India has the ability to pay Rs 6,000 per month each to 20% of India's poorest families. We have consulted a number of economists on this and they broadly agree that it is possible."

Chidambaram, however, highlighted that the scheme would be rolled out in phases and not implemented in one go once and if Congress forms the government. "The scheme will be rolled out in phases. There will be an expert committee to design the scheme at each phase," he said.

While Congress is celebrating what it admits is an ambitious plan, the BJP has rushed to play down the proposed and promised scheme. Several leaders of the party have also drawn reference to Indira Gandhi's 'Garibi Hatao' campaign from the 1970s and said that the Congress has always promised the world to the poor but never actually delivered.