Sikkim elections 2019: Bhaichung Bhutia’s party promises basic income of Rs 1,500 a month

Days after the Congress promised a guaranteed income of Rs 12,000 a month, former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia’s Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) said it would ensure a basic income of Rs 1,500 per person a month in the state. This comes ahead of the April 11 polls to both Sikkim’s 32-member Assembly and the lone Lok Sabha seat.

“What the SDF government could not do in 25 years, will be done in 25 days,” said Bhutia on the income scheme called Sikkimey Samman Yojna (SSY).

Bhutia, who is trying to focus on the youth to challenge Sikkim Democratic Front led by five-term Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, also announced that SSY will be launched within 25 days of the new government assuming charge and the payments will commence within 90 days of launch. Money will be transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries on the first day of every month.

The amount would be linked to cost of living index and would go up progressively, said a statement released by the party on Tuesday.

The entitlement would work out to Rs 18,000 a year per person and would include “every Sikkimese man, woman, child, student and youth who reside in Sikkim”.

The scheme will exclude “upper grade staff and officers of state and central government officers, high earning professionals, MPs and MLAs,” but will include “low earning government permanent employees and all ad-hoc employees/scheme workers” as beneficiaries, the statement said.

The HSP leaders also said that the implementation of SSY might entail an expenditure of about Rs 9 billion per year, considering Sikkim’s projected population of 652,862 in 2019.

The amount will be around 4.04% of Rs. 222.47 billion gross state domestic product of 2017-18 and 12.76% of Rs 70.51 billion budget for the state in 2018-19, said the statement.

“HSP represents and wants to empower the working class and poor people of Sikkim. That is why the party has nominated a number of low income working class people like drivers, mechanics, farmers and unemployed youth as candidates for this election,” said Bina Basnett, HSP president.

The HSP is hoping to win in the state that has been ruled by Pawan Chamling, the chief of ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), since 1994. Chamling has already become the longest serving chief minister in the country and is looking for a record sixth consecutive term.

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