Universal Income Scheme may well become a reality in TN after May 2

TN is probably poised to roll out the UIS, which provides monthly income support to women heading families. Yet, the government has to spend 1.8 per cent of its GSDP to honour this scheme

All the three main contenders in the 2021 Assembly election — the DMK, AIADMK and Makkal Needhi Maim — have promised financial support each month to women heading families in the state

Tamil Nadu will most likely end up implementing the universal income scheme, a nascent welfare scheme after the election results are out on May 2, as all the three main contenders in this 2021 Assembly election, the DMK, AIADMK and Makkal Needhi Maim have all promised financial support each month to women heading families in the state.

As per the 2011 census, Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of households headed by women. In the state, 12 in 100 households are being headed by women, and the state next closest to this statistic is Uttar Pradesh, which has nine out of 100 households.

Experts attribute this high number to the vast age difference between a woman and her husband in the state. “The difference in age between the bride and the bridegroom is anywhere between 5 and 10 years, especially in rural areas. Due to this, the husband dies before the wife leaving the family under her care,” said P Arokiasamy, and International Population expert.

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Across India, if the Centre ever decides to give ₹1,200 per month to 150 crore women, it will cost the government ₹21.6 lakh crore a year.

With a few days left for the counting of votes to be polled in the state, this issue has become a major point of discussion among officials in Fort St George, the administrative hub of the state, apart from controlling the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a senior official, the state government must spend not less than “1.8 per cent of GSDP” towards providing financial support to these women heading families. “Across the world such a scheme is labelled as the Universal Income Scheme and in Tamil Nadu too this scheme will be introduced,” added the official.

Already there are several welfare schemes in the state, which provide financial aid to women, starting with their school education to their marriage and even during pregnancy. The UIS as a concept has been actively mooted since the 2008 global economic crisis and has gained more traction since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senior official went on to point out that the administrative officials will have to discuss with the party which wins the elections as to how they want the scheme to be implemented.  The state has many schemes for women and each year several lakhs of women benefit from programmes like Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar marriage scheme.

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Officials said it is not clear from the manifestos of the parties whether they want to provide financial support to all women in the state or to just the women who head families. “We need to discuss with whoever forms the government that we need to subsume some of the present welfare schemes for women with the new one,” said the official.

However, the financial situation of the state too needs to be taken into account when such schemes are rolled out. “Any additional stress on the finances will increase the revenue deficit and also the fiscal deficit, as our revenue is not increasing as per the expenditure,” observed the official.