English Script: Naman Shah
Video Editors: Abhishek Sharma, Pawan Kumar
In a public rally in July 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the political practice of promising free government services (freebies) to the public as 'Revdi culture' and called it dangerous for the country. But is it correct to call public welfare work 'Revdi'?
Every party issues a manifesto before the elections in which they promise free electricity, free water, free scooters, free laptops, free mixers, etc. The Aam Aadmi Party government had promised free water in Delhi, Congress had talked about a loan-waiver for farmers in Chhattisgarh, and the Bharatiya Janata Party had announced free scooty for girls in Uttar Pradesh.
So are these freebies bad? No. But these freebies will only be possible when governments have the money to fund their promises.
BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court, demanding a ban on the announcements and promises of freebies by political parties. The apex court directed the Center to form an expert panel to make recommendations.
Argument for Freebies
According to the poverty figures released by the Planning Commission in 2011-12, the number of poor people in the country was estimated at 26.98 crore or 21.9 percent of the total population. No official estimate of poverty in India has been released since then. With such high poverty in the country, welfare schemes are essential to eradicate it.
But the financial feasibility of these promises should also be taken into consideration. The government has to be mindful of its treasuries, income, deficits, debt, etc.
Countries like Finland, Sweden, and Denmark also have 'freebies' in the form of free education and free healthcare. Even BJP's election manifestos have promised free goodies in the past. So is the debate over freebies in India merely a distraction from the real issues like unemployment and poverty?
So the fundamental question here is – why do people need these freebies? Freebies are required because even today the governments have not been able to provide basic facilities like food, education, and healthcare to everyone in this country. If the governments could provide essential services at economical costs to the common man, then no one will need freebies. If basic requirements are not fulfilled and questions are raised on freebies, then we will be forced to ask, Janab, Aise Kaise?