Colour television sets, mixers, grinders, mobile telephones, clothes are some of the freebies rolled out by political parties in Tamil Nadu and has always included these freebies in their election manifestos.
The state of Tamil Nadu is facing a huge deficit with the revenue deficit at 65,994 crores despite being a revenue surplus state a few years ago. The state’s total debt by March 2022 will be around 5.70 lakh crore, a whopping sum by any measures.
Despite all these hiccups and states fortunes nose diving the political parties are on a freebie culture with one party overtaking the other in promising the people with gifts and other freebies.
DMK commenced the freebie culture in 1967 with the then Chief minister and the towering leader of Dravidian politics, CN Annadurai promising 3 measures of rice for Rupees 1. This had a huge impact and DMK romped home for the first time in Tamil Nadu unseating the Congress government led by Bhakthavalsalam. In 2006 DMK supremo, Muthuvel Karunanidhi announced a highly populist scheme of free colour televisions, I kg of rice at 2 rupees, free gas connection and free gas stoves for all women in Tamil Nadu. The DMK won the election easily.
Spokesman of the DMK, Saravanan Annadurai while speaking to IANS said: “These are not freebies but populist schemes and in 2006 when we provided free gas stoves and subsidized gas cylinders it was a revolutionary decision to provide women solace from spending long hours in kitchen and now the Prime minister Narendra Modi has replicated the same move after so many years”.
There are divided opinions on the governments dolling out such schemes to the people.
Senior Journalist PK Sreenivasan while speaking to IANS said,” These are populist schemes and not freebies as made out. Studies had revealed that in remote areas of Tamil Nadu after the Colour TV sets were provided by the DMK government, the crime rates had come down. In a similar vein the fixed deposit schemes for the girl child by the TN governments had increased the social indicators for the state.”
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan and his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) party has announced 50 lakh jobs for the unemployed youths and this will be followed by other political parties in their manifestos.
The political parties are turning into prisoners of their own ideas as voters expect freebies each and every election.
Senior leader of Tamil Nadu and President of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi( VCK), Thirumavalavan while speaking to IANS over telephone said, “Please don’t say that these are freebies, these are populist schemes brought into help the people of the state by towering leaders like CN Annadurai, MG Ramachandran and these schemes has helped raise the social indicators of Tamil Nadu. We are part of the DMK led front and is expected to bring in lot of populist schemes benefiting the people of Tamil Nadu.”
Former Health secretary of Tamil Nadu and retired senior bureaucrat, Sheela Rani Chunkath, IAS however said that the political parties have to be more cautious in doling out such schemes. She said ,” Let us call it freebies or populist schemes. Ours is a welfare state, agreed but it means you help those who cannot help themselves. The state has to bring out such policies that leads to the improvement of economic status of the state enabling people buy these gadgets instead of doling them out on a platter.”
DMK leader Saravanan said that the states finances had dipped owing to the mismanagement and misgovernance of the AIADMK government. “Once we are back to power, we will reduce pilferage and stop unnecessary tenders and Tamil Nadu is a state with huge industrial growth which will pick up once there is a change in power.”