For an awfully long time, different organs of Indian polity have been working in their own silos. For instance, Business organisations have their own niche while RBI is in a different league altogether. But freebies have become such a menace that only a collaborative approach can tackle it. The Modi government’s “Freebies Committee” is a step in the same direction.
New Committee: Mega Body of Experts For Freebies
The Union government has told the Supreme Court that it is constituting a mega body of experts on the issue of freebies. According to Centre’s suggestions, the body will comprise Union and state finance secretaries, 1 representative each from national parties, finance commission chairman, an RBI representative, CEO of the Niti Aayog, a representative of the Election Commission nominated by the CEC, representatives from FICCI and CII and representatives from sectors which are most affected by these freebies.
Tushar Mehta, India’s Solicitor General told the Supreme Court, “This freebie culture has been elevated to the level of art and now elections are only fought on the ground. If freebies are considered to be for the welfare of the people, it will lead to a disaster. In pursuance of the last order, I have proposed a committee. Till the legislature considers this, your lordships may lay down something. If freebies become the norm, then the Court can step in (sic),…”
Freebies committee Designed to Solve The Crisis And Not Prolong It
If you look properly at the composition of the Freebies committee, it is well balanced. To provide the inputs about consequences of freebies, it has representatives from esteemed organisations like RBI, Finance Commission and Niti Aayog. Similarly, to differentiate between Revadi (a colloquial term invented by PM Modi to refer to freebies) and actual welfare schemes, political parties have also been included.
The Election Commission and Finance Ministry are there to provide regulatory inputs. Lastly, FICCI and CII are there to explain about negative effects of freebies in the job market as well as across various industries.
Court is apprehensive of political parties
Centre’s recommendations came on suggestion by the Supreme Court. Last week the Supreme Court had refused to accept that political parties could solve this crisis. However, it had recommended an expert body in which political parties could participate.
The Supreme Court’s fear around political parties was later vindicated by the Aam Aadmi Party in Court itself. AAP filed an intervening application in the matter and said that the Court should not examine the issue. The Honourable Court retorted back stating that it was wrong on the part of Kejriwal’s party. However, the Court did agree that there are some Constitutional boundaries on how much it can delve deep into the issue.
KCR on Freebies
But it is not only AAP which has its reservations around the issue. Almost every regional party is fearing that their chances of winning the next assembly elections will become slim if freebies are regulated. Recently, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, KCR’s daughter and Member of Legislative Council (MLC) came out stating that they are not distributing freebies but are instead engaged in welfarism.
Currently, the state is running more than 250 such schemes, apparently in the name of poverty. It includes successive loan waivers as well. There is little to no oversight as to when they will reach intended beneficiaries, if at all. Apparently, if a ‘welfarist’ scheme goes on for decades, the baffling longevity of it explains its inanity by itself. In short, they have failed. But KCR will not budge under pressure. Recently, the KCR government came out announcing that it will provide a social security pension of Rs 2,016 to 10 Lakh new beneficiaries. A pittance per capita but a whopping Rs. 201 Crore additional pressure on the state exchequer.
Politicians will not change and so system must
Arvind Kejriwal is not willing to change his stance. After worsening power and other infrastructures in Delhi and Punjab, his party has now announced that they will provide Rs 1,000 to women voters of Gujarat. First AAP told the Apex Court that they should not examine the issue and then came this announcement.
But on a regional level Politics is all about truckloads of Revadi. Regional Parties almost never have substantive plans, so they resort to emotional coercion through freebies. It is because of such politicians that the concept of welfare state is turning into what economists term as Compensatory state. Hope the new Freebies committee puts an end to this wasteful practice.
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