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How free are the Freebies?

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Freebies freebies freebies!! This phrase is shining up in all news headlines for the past few days. Listening to this word has made us immune to it. It seems as if the word never existed before and has just taken birth about a few days back. The momentum of popularity it has gained literally forced many of us to google its meaning on our phones. It is surprising how suddenly out of the blue, all big players of democracy are showing concerns about the Freebies. Is it some new government scheme or any end-of-the-season sale for an e-commerce platform or is it some free product for the consumers?

Well, your doubts are genuinely fair and are bound to exist. There has been a lot of fuss around the word. Freebies according to their meaning are nothing but anything which are provided or given free of charge. But this short phrase has caused turbulence in all the democratic institutions of the country. Be it the PM of the country or the highest and most powerful Supreme court of India or the leaders of the political parties, everyone is stating facts and reasons for the same. Actually, this word is not that simple to be defined especially in a democratic country like India where the meaning changes at every step. As already mentioned it can be referred to as any service or a product that is offered to you for free.
And now begins the climax of this stated assertion. Let’s consider a few instances and then figure out their credibility to be tagged as freebies.

India, the world’s largest democracy celebrates the festival of elections with great pride and scale. Indian polity is perennially in an election mode. On average, elections take place in about 5-7 State Assemblies every year along with general elections of Lok sabha every 5 years. Now recall the infinite number of promises or articles like cycles, books, sanitary pads, and whatnot are distributed among the voters to create awareness about the party vision, goals, and objectives. Can these be termed Freebies?

The general welfare schemes that each government be it state or center, launches in the plight of the people of the country, like the provision of free mid-day meals to children in government schools or subsidies for farmers’ crops and electricity, free cylinders to deprived and rural households, Public distribution systems and other unlimited schemes being offered since the time we got independent. Now do these also fall in the freebies category? These questions have even put the Supreme court into a dilemma over deciding the true meaning of it.

In reality, actually, it’s a blurry line that exists between welfare and freebies. It is very hard to distinguish between so closely knitted concepts. Socio-economic welfare schemes sit at the heart of any democratic country. This is the reason why fiscal policies are framed and budgets are presented each year so that the revenue being collected should be disposed of with respect to the welfare of the people of the country.

Be it the construction of expressways, or new employment generation scheme, or the setting up of a government educational institute. It will not be justified to call them freebies. However, the timing of their announcement has a significant role in decision-making. Most of these future projects are part of manifestos which at this point in time look not less than offering freebies in order to attract huge masses of voters. But once the government comes into power then these freebies take the shape of welfare projects aimed at the socio-economic development of the country.

What becomes necessary here is that though both of these scenarios work towards in direction of upliftment and betterment of the society as a whole it becomes equally important to identify their extent. Freebies definitely come with some economic costs attached to them. In the sprint of winning people’s confidence, the economic aspect of these is usually left unseen. Definitely better and free facilities should be offered to every resident of the country but that should not result in a burden on the country or state’s financial health. Offering freebies in a much larger and unplanned way may result in an excessive economic burden for a state to finance them. Recently RBI in one of its bulletins pointed at the sensitive position of some states as their debt to GDP ratio is quite high and the reason for the same was directed at freebies.

It is not at all easy to define and distinguish between freebies and welfare. There are numerous areas where it becomes completely complicated to decide between both. Supreme Court is yet to resume hearing in a similar instance on the based of a petition filed. It is more of an ethical stance over all other factors. Debate and discussions over this issue have different angles and perspectives to look from and the image changes with each aspect being taken into consideration. However, one crystal clear fact that has emerged that hints at managing these from an economical approach is the need of the hour and which proves that everything in this world definitely comes with some cost and freebies are also not free!

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