Will SC accept plea to treat Modi govt's benevolence towards crony capitalists as ‘freebies’ too?

DMK has submitted that Modi govt’s ‘tax holidays’ to foreign companies, waiver of bad loans of industrialists and granting of crucial contracts to favoured conglomerates too count as ‘freebies’

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Dr Gyan Pathak

The ongoing ‘freebies’ case in the Supreme Court of India has reached an interesting stage, with the DMK seeking to be made a party into it. It clearly indicated that the presumption on which ‘freebies’ are understood would decide its fate in favour of the Centre or states, the rich or the poor, and the real objectives expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution and its several provisions.

DMK has challenged the very presumption of ‘freebies’ under which the Centre led by Modi government has labelled the welfare schemes introduced by the state governments alone.

Even as PM Narendra Modi has criticized other political parties in opposition-ruled states for their ‘welfare schemes’ as ‘freebies’ for a long time, the opposition has questioned him why his ‘welfare and other promotion schemes’ should not fall in this category.

DMK has pointed out that the Centre’s ‘tax holidays’ to foreign companies, waiver of bad loans of influential industrialists and granting of crucial contracts to favoured conglomerates should be put in the same bracket as ‘freebies’.

DMK has put the matter on record in the Supreme Court and said that there was no “straight-jacket formula” to decipher which scheme deserves to be termed as ‘freebies’. The Constitution of India empowers not only the Centre but also the States to promulgate welfare schemes, and the term ‘freebies’ cannot be interpreted to restrict States, the DMK has said.

“Such schemes have been introduced in order to provide basic necessities which poor households cannot afford. They cannot be imputed to be luxuries. Schemes such as free electricity can have a multi-dimensional effect on a poor household,” it added.

The party have even mentioned that it had introduced various welfare schemes such as rice at Rs 1 per kg, free distribution of colour television sets to poor households, free bus passes to women among others for uplifting the poor households.

“A welfare scheme providing a free service is introduced with the intent to secure a social order and economic justice. In no imaginable reality could it be construed as a freebie,” the party has argued.

Before going into details, one must know what is a ‘freebie’. The world originated sometime during 1925-30, perhaps from a noun phrase ‘free bee’. It was used in a sentence as, “Put the bee on to borrow money with not intentions or repaying it.” And the money that was not intended to be repaid was referred to as ‘freebie’.

Going by this, all the loans given to the rich, which are not intended to be repaid, too count as ‘freebies’.

In contemporary language, ‘freebies’ are defined as something given without charge or cost. No doubt, political parties and leaders have been resorting to ‘freebies’, including PM Modi himself, though it did not prevent him from denouncing about the “Revadi culture” on July 16, 2022 while inaugurating Bundelkhand Expressways in Jalaun. He said this ‘politics of freebies’ is allegedly practiced by certain political parties to garner votes. He called upon the people to be cautious of them and also rid the country’s political arena of the proponents of ‘Revadi (freebie) culture” as it was a dangerous trend which retarded the growth of the country. This came as a surprise, considering that BJP and its allies too are following the same culture.

Other political parties, such as DMK in Tamil Nadu, Trianamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav duo in Bihar, BJD in Odisha, etc have all been emerging as challengers for Modi’s dream of winning 2024 Lok Sabha election. If they serve the people better, it would dampen BJP’s prospects.

Political analysts say that Modi has no option but to try and curtail the effectiveness of the opposition-ruled states by constricting their financial lifeline in the name of containing the dangers of ‘freebies’. It is clearly a political issue and must be fought politically, and let the people vote for those who serve them most.

But some of those enthused by PM Modi’s opinion have brought the case to the Supreme Court of India, where it is now being fought legally. So be it. But presumption should be equitable, in which neither rich nor poor be given undue advantage over the other.

Social and economic justice must be secured first; dignity of individuals must be protected along with their lives and livelihoods; equal opportunity to all must be delinked with paying capacity; equality of access must be secured for all in all educational, health, and other institutions and must not be linked with money; and finally the rules must not be made or policies adopted for the benefit of the few only in name of development.

Development of a nation must not be presumed only as the creation and accumulation of wealth in few hands by supporting them with all legal and illegal means, but it should also include the welfare of the entire humanity – the poor children, the women, and those who have been suffering from social, economic, and several other injustices.

The Supreme Court has a great issue at hand, the decision on which may impact the future of the country. The taxpayer’s money should not be wasted in ‘freebies’, but what constitute ‘freebies’ and what do not is a question that clearly needs to be spelt out.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 17 Aug 2022, 9:00 PM