- The AAP government, be it in Delhi or Punjab, keeps asking for money from the Union government.
- The newly elected Bhagwant Mann government has asked for 50,000 crore rupees from PM Modi to fulfil election manifesto promises.
- The freebie politics of Kejriwal is pushing the states run by AAP into a debt crisis, and the Union government must refuse to give any extra money to the Punjab government.
- Otherwise, this will start a vicious cycle of freebie politics that Kejriwal has already championed in Delhi.
Kejriwal In Politics
Almost a decade ago, the entry of Arvind Kejriwal in Indian politics took freebie promises to an altogether different level. Although Indian politics has always been populist like any other poor country and the Congress party has won the election on the promise of freebies, not jobs, the entry of Kejriwal brought this kind of politics in urban areas.
Earlier the freebie politics was limited to rural areas of the country, given rampant poverty and low productivity in those areas. However, Kejriwal promised free electricity, free water, free ration, free metro travel, free bus ride, free education, and free healthcare to the people of Delhi. Healthcare and education are considered public goods and every party promises to deliver them, but along with that, the governments in developing countries/states/municipalities promise better infrastructure to create jobs and spur economic growth.
But Kejriwal’s sole focus is on the distribution of freebies, no infrastructure, no economic growth, no jobs – only freebies. And in many urban areas, the politics of Kejriwal is working. With success in Delhi, he has very consciously focused on urban areas in the last few years – be it Goa, Surat, or Punjab.
Freebie Politics of AAP
Now the Punjab government wants to implement the same freebie model with money from the centre. Punjab is already in a vicious cycle with rampant corruption and cronyism of Congress and Akali Dal.
Until the 1990s, Punjab was miles ahead of other Indian states in terms of its per capita income, thanks to the ‘Green Revolution’ of the late 1960s. However, as India transformed from a primarily agrarian economy to a services and industry-based economy after the reforms of 1991, Punjab was left far behind.
As per the graph above by economists Shamika Ravi and Mudit Kapoor, the economic growth in Punjab in the last few decades has been so low that it has been left behind by many states in terms of per capita income. Today per capita income in Haryana is 1.5 times more than that of Punjab. Punjab is now far behind in all three sectors- agriculture, industry, and services.
Industrialisation in India
While the other states are industrialising rapidly since the last few decades, Punjab has witnessed rapid de-industrialisation in the last one and a half-decade. Economist Shamika Ravi, in an article published in The Print, argued that industrial clusters in Punjab are witnessing closure.
When every Indian state is luring IT service industries through IT parks and other incentives, the Punjab government has not taken a single measure to ensure the college graduates get employment in the state. Gurgaon, the city in Haryana, transformed itself from a village to services hub of North India, and Noida, a small industrial township that came into the 1980s, is today an industrial hub while Chandigarh, one of the most beautiful and well-maintained cities of the country, could not attract any major service sector player in the last few decades, thanks to the lethargy of Punjab government.
Punjab has India’s highest debt of GDP ratio in the country at around 40 per cent. Moreover, the state has one of the lowest expenditures on health and mortality rate from the recent COVID-19 pandemic is double to that of the national average. Even the percentage of youth suffering from mental health conditions in the state is as high as 18 per cent due to alcoholism and substance abuse.
The freebie model of AAP will further destory the economy of states like Punjab. The Kejriwal government brought the freebie culture of socialist politicians like Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The people of the city are now witnessing its damage. The socialists appreciate Lalu Yadav for not increasing the passenger fare in railways but, the damage that was done to the railway infrastructure with unhygienic stations, unavailability of tickets, extreme rush due to unavailability of trains, delays due to single line infrastructure is often ignored.
The political economy of Punjab is sinking, the social services are in a dire state, industries are leaving, and if the Union government gives more money to the state government, it will only further destroy the state.