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Free of cost- at what cost?

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India gained freedom in 1947. Every Indian undertook a pledge that day to free the country from poverty, deprivation, inequality and exploitation. Cut to 2022 – how much is our country free? That is difficult to answer.

But one thing has definitely gained freedom i.e., political rhetoric – amidst the many promises political candidates make at podiums, in manifestos and before elections, one problem that has gained attraction is the PROMISE OF FREEBIES.

Freebies are lucrative offers that aim to provide utility services like water, electricity etc. and other public goods for free; something that sounds like a supermarket offer ‘Free Free Free- Iss Se Sasta Aur Achcha Kahin Nahin’. Well you may be making citizens’ life ‘Sasta’ but definitely not ‘Accha’!

“Nothing is free. Everything has to be paid for. For every profit in one thing, payment in some other thing.”

Anything that’s given free to someone must be paid by someone at some point. This is a dangerous trend that is only aggravating with time. States and leaders are providing bicycles, smartphones, electricity, LPG etc. for free to certain sections with the aim of welfare. The motive displayed behind these initiatives is upliftment of deprived sections but results may backfire.

They claim the reason for freebies is welfare but is this welfare going to be sustainable? What happens when people are made to live their lives on products and services that are simply given to them and that are not earned. How can we reach the goal of self reliant India if the citizens are habituated of charity.

Having said so, to completely reject the idea of freebies will also be a grave mistake as some of the poor sections maybe in dire need of it but what explains distribution of freebies to those who don’t require them.

Delhi government made bus travel free for all women as a step towards women security. How is pricing of the tickets related to security? For security, we need to reform the filthy patriarchal society and freebies can do very little in such matters. Instead it robs the state of important money that these women commuters could have contributed.

Behaviorally, humans tend to waste or carelessly use resources that they have not paid for. Unfortunately we tend to value only that what has been earned by our own money and feel it okay to squander that we have just received for free as happened in Punjab where free electricity has led to enormous extraction of groundwater, significantly depleting water reserves of the state.

Also this goes against the self-respect of a human being. Citizens of India are amply capable of earning so they must be provided means to do so rather than luring them into such attractive offers, slowly killing their capabilities, reducing them to state of helplessness and making them want free gifts all their lives.

If freebies are justified today, for how long can they be dragged? Government needs revenue to run the country and if resources continue to be mindlessly distributed for free who will fill the national treasury?

15th finance commission chairperson NK Singh has clearly pointed out that if States continue to roll out freebies the country can witness sub-national bankruptcy.

SEWA (Self-Employed Women Association)- one of the first self help groups in India was built on this principle: Poor don’t need Charity; they need an enabling mechanism to strive and come out of vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability. This mentality needs to be bred and one way of doing so is to exercise our vote judiciously by rejecting free offers and electing pro-development candidates.

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