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Election Freebies: Drawbacks and why we must fight it

There is nothing wrong with having a complex social security programme driven by policy that aims to aid the poor in escaping poverty. However, such a programme requires conscientious planning and cannot be concocted right before an election.

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Freebies are not a new concept; rather, it is inveterated in Indian politics as a way of life (in the name of socialism). The political parties are constantly competing with one another to offer the best freebies to entice Indian voters. Indian politicians promise everything to win over potential voters, from free water to free smartphones. As the “traditional free water and electricity” are no longer sufficient as election gifts, this trend has gained more traction recently as political parties have become more creative in their offerings. If India doesn’t cease the “culture of freebies” and subsidies in industries like agriculture, it may experience an economic crisis similar to that experienced in Sri Lanka, NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand has warned.

Why are these laws so voguish among the general public?

Failure of economic policies: The reason is that our economic policies have completely failed to provide a decent living for the vast majority of Indians. In order to have a decent standard of living, the already meagre income had to be redirected toward spending a disproportionately higher amount on health and education, from which the state withdrew more and more.

Current unemployment: According to surveys on employment, after the 1990s, employment growth first slowed down before turning negative over the following few years. Increasing cost of living: Since the reforms of 1991, the real income growth of the marginal sections has been slackened.

Increased consumerism: The poor now spend money on items that are considered to be luxuries; cell phones and data packs are two such examples that are used to illustrate India’s rising affluence. Mobile phones are essential for migrant workers to stay in touch with their loved ones’ back home or to make a quick video call to check on their child as they learn to sit up or crawl.

Issues with Freebies

Economic Costs: The state and federal exchequer must bear a heavy financial burden as a result. Opposition to an impartial election Voters are unfairly influenced, the playing field is disrupted, and the integrity of the election process is tainted by the promise of irrational freebies from public funds before elections.

It amounts to a dishonest practice that is comparable to offering bribes to voters.

Distribution of private goods or services from public funds that are not for public purposes prior to an election is against several provisions of the Constitution, including Article 14. (equality before the law).

In the 2013 case S Subramanian Balaji v. Government of Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court ruled that unrealistic campaign promises and giveaways are a dour problem that interferes with elections’ fairness. The court further held that the Representation of People Act and other applicable laws cannot be used to interpret promises made in the election manifesto as “corrupt practice,” and as a result, the distribution of freebies cannot be stopped when the ruling party uses public funds for this purpose by passing Appropriation Acts in the state assembly. In addition, the court pointed out that there is no law that specifically regulates the election manifesto’s content and ordered ECI to create rules for it after consulting with all recognized political parties.

Effects of freebies

Never-ending freebies: As long as parties continue to make tempting offers to entice voters, the risk of losing the election is reduced, this is another significant drawback. People tend to forget that such benefits are provided at the government’s expense and with money collected from taxes. Total loss for the poor: The poor suffer as a result of being denied their fair share of the benefits that were supposed to be realized with the money because politicians and middlemen purloin the benefits. The inflationary practice: Such free commodity distribution significantly alters supply-demand dynamics.

Good governance and winning elections are two entirely different things. Freebies have a dubious place in fostering good governance. Freebies’ social, political, and economic repercussions are essentially instantaneous. There are numerous freebies and subsidy programmes available in many States, but there are still starvation deaths, power outages, and subpar health and education services. Therefore, freebies or incentives cannot alleviate the tribulation of India’s masses.

India is a huge country, and there are still a lot of people living in poverty. All of the population must be taken into account in the nation’s development plan. It’s important to comprehend the financial effects of freebies and how they relate to tax dollars. The difference between a subsidy and a freebie must also be made because subsidies are benefits that are justified and specifically targeted and result from demand.

There is nothing wrong with having a complex social security programme driven by policy that aims to aid the poor in escaping poverty. However, such a programme requires conscientious planning and cannot be concocted right before an election.

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