The no-hold-barred freebie culture in India is halting the progress of the country undeniably. Before the election, in all states, one way or the other, the ruling and the opposition parties compete with one another in declaring freebies to people of all hues, not to the poor alone. These freebies range from free laptops, free T.V. sets, free cookers and grinders, free-water, free-electricity, sarees and other material gains as well as cash benefits.
The political parties show one-upmanship in this distribution game. The BJP, especially the Prime Minister Modi, is not much into this game as this freebie culture incurs wasting of money that has to go into infrastructure and nation building. In fact, before the recent March 2022- Uttar Pradesh elections, the Union Budget-2022 was presented. Everyone expected, since it (the budget) being a budget before the most populous and crucial state Uttar Pradesh’s election, some incentives/freebies would be announced to woo voters but that was not done. Yet, the BJP won the elections.
The proponents of freebies point out: when industrialists get loan write offs and Corporates get tax cuts, why can’t the poor get the benefit? No one says the poor should not get the benefit. Precisely that is the reason why still giving ration to the poor through fair-price shops (which is a Socialist welfare measure) even today exists in India. None raises questions on the subsidies given to the poor. None raises any question on the benefits that elevates the standards of life of the poor, be it on their education or health.
In India the government runs schools and hospitals for free of cost. All these remnants of Socialism are even now prevailing, as the Indian poor are not alleviated from hunger, dearth of good education and health. The opponents also show the accusing finger at the BJP for promoting a handful of business people and Corporates that have become wealthy in this regime. This is done specially by the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi. The same Corporate business classes were encouraged by the Congress also when it was in power.
The other opposition parties would also do the same, given the power. Without wealth creators in the society, social welfare schemes and social welfare measures cannot run. The government alone cannot create jobs. So, what the opposition parties yell and shout, is what they did when they were in power and would not mind doing again.
For most political parties’ social welfare is garb to garner votes. In the name of social welfare they greedily increase reservations beyond the bar set by the Supreme Court, they increase sops/subsidies given to various sections with no rhyme or reason other than grabbing votes. That way, they waste the tax-revenue collected from people for their personal gain.
Across the political spectrum this culture has grown. No one is there to ask for their accountability. Earlier, when this topic of freebies came up i.e. some political parties were asked to show how they get money for the promises they make in the form of balance sheets. They could not do it effectively. Later the topic fizzled out. By hook or crook, regional parties try to come to power in the states. So they make irresponsible promises. This culture of freebies is more in South India. Slowly but steadily it spread to the North Indian polity.
It was in 2004 assembly and parliamentary elections, held jointly in the united Andhra Pradesh, the then Pradesh Congress President Late Shri Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, (later became C.M. of A.P.) promised free-electricity to all farmers of the state, if he came to power. For, he wanted to dislodge the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) that was in the government for ten years.
Now, this fever of free-electricity supply to the farmers gripped North India. This is not to say that farmers should not be given this incentive. Farmers could be given at a subsidized price or for certain hours. By giving a totally unfettered power supply, it is said, they are letting loose water in their fields with no check on closing the pump-set. The wastage of water in the fields is humongous. Anything free is taken for granted. A small amount of price tag needs to be attached so as to have a check.
On a T.V. debate, Tamil Nadu’s finance minister, Palanivel Thiagarajan, when asked a question regarding freebies (Revdi culture), he queried in reverse— why the state governments should listen to the Union government when it has no constitutional authority? He brushed aside courts too in this matter. To him it should be left to political parties and the electorate. The electorate is by and large gullible to the parties’ politics.
If not to the Union government, at least all parties need to listen to the Supreme Court (presently the matter is in S.C.). The Apex Court is the best arbitrate in this regard, as the parties cannot judge among themselves what are considered freebies and what are considered welfare measures. Many educated sections are up against political parties doling out tax-payers’ money in an unregulated manner i.e. the populist way.
By supporting state’s hold on free- freebie-dispersal, the finance minister of Tamil Nadu, Shri Thiagarajan has been losing his argument as a well-educated person. By projecting dynasty and freebie politics to people, the Prime Minister Modi is getting the required heft. These potential issues work in his favor to fight the opposition with in 2024 elections to win.