Making Sense of the ‘freebies’ Issue
What constitutes a freebie?
- Resources distributed to the public as a result of election promises is what is often referred to as freebies.
Do all such distributions amount to giving freebies?
- The distribution of free food grains during covid pandemic when godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) had over 100 million tonnes of rice and wheat cannot be termed as a ‘freebie’.
- Government implementing food security programme through the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to around 80 crore ration cardholders cannot be termed as a ‘freebie’.
- If anything, it can be argued that coverage under the PMGKAY must be expanded to include non-ration card holders as well, as there are many who are excluded from ration lists but are in need of subsidised or free food grains.
The need for such Schemes
- Subsidised food grains distributed under the PDS not only contribute to ensuring basic food security but also act as an implicit income transfer allowing the poor to afford commodities that they otherwise could not.
- MGNREGA can guarantee some assured wages and as it is demand-based it can respond to as much need as there is.
- Similarly, mid-day meals in schools have been proven to contribute to increased enrolment and retention in schools and addressing classroom hunger.
- A number of other schemes such as old age, single women and disabled pensions, community kitchens in urban areas, free uniforms and textbooks for children in government schools, and free health-care services play a critical role in providing social security and access to basic entitlements in our country.
What needs to be done?
- Welfare delivery needs to be made into an electoral issue.
- A discussion on whether eggs will be served in the mid-day meal programme, how many days of work will be provided under the employment guarantee scheme, schemes for access to free medicines, or at what price subsidised grain will be given under the PDS, needs to happen.
- It is important to recognise that most welfare schemes contribute to improving human development outcomes, which also results in higher economic growth in future.
- This process while sometimes wasteful, is a much needed endeavour to reduce poverty and income inequality in the country.
Source The Hindu
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