Freebies discourse lost in television entertainment din


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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, August 19: Public discourse on freebies is now reduced to fish-market yelling.

Tamil Nadu Finance Minister P Thiaga Rajan, wearing typical DMK aggression on his sleeves, stumped an unprepared television anchor, with suspect understanding of economics and the economy, by his rhetorical retorts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to a national debate on politics of freebies, making clear that his target was the never ending compulsive politics to promote free electricity culture.

Television anchors owe their positions to the strength of lung powers, and content fodders fed to them by teams who are acclimatised most to politics and events.

Rajan’s rhetorical retort floored Rahul Kanwal, the face of India Today, as he wasn’t able to counter the Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu.

The discourse is derailed in ‘your Revdi my welfarism’ barbs between the Centre and States.

This discourse will suffer the most if spokespersons, covert or overt, argue the case against the politics of freebies.

The Reserve Bank of India report on the health of the finances of States is clear that the time bomb is ticking, and they should mind their ways or be ready to sink.

If the States are so well-placed with their financial health, they wouldn’t have been seeking extension of the GST Compensation for revenue loss beyond 2022 by which the law lapses.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann wouldn’t have been begging for Rs one lakh crore in the seventh Governing Council meeting of the NITI Aayog to repair the State finances.

Mann is worried because he has to implement a stupid scheme under which the Punjab government would give Rs 1,000 to each adult woman in the state, at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore annually, for reasons best known only to the Aam Admi Party.

The debt to the state GDP level of Punjab and Andhra Pradesh is pointing that they are headed to worst situations in the coming months.

Indeed, Modi-led NDA government at the Centre is equally at fault for setting the bad example for the political parties in the Assembly elections to promise the moon.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was indeed on account of the delivery of the Modi welfarism, with toilets and houses being among the top talking points of the voters.

Both the schemes could be justifiable, for they had been in existence for decades and preceded Modi at the helms of affairs in New Delhi.

What is not justifiable is Modi overdoing his welfarism with Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna for 800 million people, nearly two-third of India’s population.

The cost of this free foodgrain scheme comes for six months is Rs 80,000 crores.

Uttam Gupta, a policy analyst, in an article has claimed that during 2020-21, the Centre spent Rs 5,25,000 crore on food subsidy.

He also stated that Centre’s fertilizer subsidy during 2020-21 was Rs 1,38,000 crore. Together, they account for over one-fifth of total Budget of India.

Now, Modi with his Revdi politics barb wanted to hit out at the propensity of the political parties to give free electricity, which accounts for over Rs two lakh crore of outstanding to the power distribution companies.

The free electricity scheme is outrageous, for it supports even those who are not in need of it, while making the farmers to destroy the ground water and the soil health.

Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and other states have allowed the farmers to take advantage of the free electricity to singularly focus on cultivation of water guzzlers such as rice and sugarcane.

Indeed, Nobel laureates don’t work for governments, as sought by the Tamil Nadu Finance Minister, but he may need to explain why States, including his, have to run free canteens if their economies are exceedingly doing well, and the people are economically being empowered.

The Centre and States both are culprits in promoting ‘Revdi’ politics.

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