UP, Maharashtra have highest liabilities: Freebies PIL reveals in SC
Indian states have outstanding liabilities of Rs. 59,89,360 crore as of March 31, 2021, the Supreme Court is informed in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra top the chart with liabilities of Rs. 6,62,891 crore and Rs. 5,36,891 crore respectively, it said. The new sources of risk and liabilities have emerged in form of rising expenditure on non-merit freebies, PIL added.
- India has had a long "freebie" culture that extends to things like televisions in Tamil Nadu, laptops in Uttar Pradesh, and even bus trips in Delhi.
- Last week, the SC ruled that an expert panel should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of political favors.
- For its "inaction" on the matter, the Election Commission was also singled out by the top court.
According to the PIL, Punjab has the highest debt to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) ratio at 53:3. The state is also saddled with a liability of Rs. 2,49,187 crore, according to the petition. Rajasthan trails only Punjab in the current fiscal year's debt-to-GSDP ratio of 39:5. The overall obligation of the state is Rs. 3,91,482 crore.
The Supreme Court was hearing Ashwini Upadhyay's petition before a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana. The petitioner is against political parties giving goodies during elections. He has also ordered that their registration be revoked. The top court has now requested input from stakeholders such as the Centre, NITI Aayog, and the Finance Commission in order to brainstorm on the problem of freebies.
The SC bench is also checking whether the distribution of freebies by the political parties has any adverse impact on the fiscal health of the country after a written submission containing suggestions has been furnished by Upadhyay through his counsels.
Speaking for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the distribution of freebies has been "elevated" to art by some parties. He claimed that the thought that welfare measures are the only way is unscientific and will lead to an "economic disaster". Mehta proposed the formation of a committee comprising government officers and party representatives. The matter will be heard on August 17.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has slammed Opposition parties for providing freebies to voters. He claimed that this would prevent India from being self-sufficient and would burden the taxpayers. On Wednesday, Modi stated that such announcements are motivated by entrenched interests and restrict investments in innovative technology. He was speaking at the commissioning of Indian Oil's second-generation ethanol unit at the Panipat refinery.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has openly criticized the petition and said that socio-economic welfare schemes cannot be described as freebies. The party has also accused Upadhyay, former Delhi BJP spokesperson, of furthering the government agenda. After Uttar Pradesh announced free bus rides for women aged over 60 on Wednesday, AAP said that this is a rebellion against PM Narendra Modi.