Centre promotes welfare of ‘rich friends’, we invest in public, says AAP

The much-debated issue today that has caught the attention of common citizens across many states is the freebies politics that originated from the national capital Delhi in some ways and has made its way to many states through assembly polls.

The freebie culture that has made it to the centrestage of Indian politics is being criticised and advocated at the same time. Those advocating this culture find it a solid foundation for a vibrant democracy and call it an important aspect of the welfare state, while those criticising it fear an adverse impact on the economy.

However, the issue has reached the apex court through a PIL by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay against the practice of political parties providing or promising freebies to voters.

The Aam Aadmi Party which started providing free electricity and water with a cap in the capital city after coming to power, may be called the beginning point for this culture. Though, there has been the tradition of waiving off electricity bills, water bills, and agricultural loans by many governments earlier. The Aam Aadmi Party calls it ‘an investment in the public.

Dr Sakti Prasad Srichandan, Assistant Professor, Centre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, says that for a country like India, where many people are still below the poverty line, freebies are sometimes required. But it should be in a sustainable way, and without putting pressure on the economy.

“But today we see freebies are used as a political tool to garner votes, and in an unsustainable way. Sooner or later, it will affect the economy and create other problems. The politics of freebies can have serious repercussions as we have seen in the recent case of Sri Lanka” he told IANS. He was apprehensive that India could meet the same fate, if this freebies culture is not tamed in a coordinated and controlled way.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in a press briefing last week said that the BJP calls welfare schemes for the public ‘free ki revari’ but we call it investing in our people.

He said that two models of governance are being followed in the country. One is the ‘dostwad’ model of governance where the people in power help their friends, waive off crores of taxes of super rich friends and call it development. The other model is the proper and honest use of taxpayer’s money to open schools, free education to the kids, free electricity to the citizens, free bus travel for women and pension to the elderly.

However, the freebies culture is being criticised for putting an unwanted burden on the economy which will ultimately lead to inflation in the country.

Professor Himanshu Roy, Political Science at Delhi University, said that if providing something free to the citizens is productive it is fine, but what the AAP is doing in the name of freebies is unproductive like giving away Rs one thousand to women that is not going to boost the economy, instead increase inflation.

“Anything which is linked with productivity and employment generation is acceptable, but anything that is just a throwaway of taxpayers’ money for the sake of winning the election which has nothing to do with productivity is misuse”, Roy told IANS.

Talking about the Centre’s policy, Roy said that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has been linked with productivity to build roads which will create employment and also a road will be constructed. But, just throwing away hard earned money in society will ultimately lead to inflation, he added. However, he said that giving free education and health care is fine upto a point, but this is for public consumption. If anything is available free, that will obviously be misused, this is a public tendency.

Roy said that this culture will not only have an adverse impact on the economy but will create high inflation in the country.

On the contrary, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the eve of the 75th Independence Day demanded free good education, health care, 300 units of electricity to every household and an unemployment allowance to all.

“There are some people who call the provision of free education, free treatment by government facilities as ‘revari’ or ‘freebies’. An atmosphere is being created in the country against provisions of free education at government schools and free treatment at government hospitals,” Kejriwal had said.

He claimed an atmosphere is being created against free government welfare services by terming them freebies, rather than planning to strengthen them in the 75th year of Independence.

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