Herald: Governance by doles and freebies
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Governance by doles and freebies

11 Jan 2017 03:39am IST
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11 Jan 2017 03:39am IST

Though elections are less than a month away, major political parties are yet to release their election manifestos. Their web sites still show the 2012 promises. For too long a time, the major parties over-exploited the emotive land issue here in Goa.  Today, nobody talks of  ‘Investment Promotion Board’ which, if not done away with has the potential to destroy the very idea of Goa. This election there are no serious issues. The election shall be on ‘schemes’, ‘doles’ and ‘freebies’.

Sometime back, the Goa government has announced a free package of 1 GB data and Rs 100 worth of talk time for the youth between the age of 18 to 35 every month. The Dayanand Niradhar scheme is the flagship scheme of doles to all. The Griha Aadhar scheme for housewives has been increased to Rs 1500 from Rs 1200. The Laadli Laxmi Scheme is remodelled. In addition there is a promise to provide subsidies on cereals, pulses, besides vegetables through Krishi outlets. The accredited journalists got additional benefits. The government had already distributed three nine watt LED bulbs to house hold. 

In 2012 election, the BJP actually loaded the freebies into the manifesto and today they actually boast of four lakhs free loaders. The Goa state governance has been reduced to distribution of state funds to keep vote banks intact. Taking into consideration the schemes in Goa for the poor, housewives, widows, girl children, we can claim that our state is a hub of freebies. Our state is now in direct competition with ‘Amma’s’ Tamil Nadu. 

The system of doles is so much entrenched  in our body polity that AAP which has promised  to ‘disrupt’ the existing political system ran out of ideas and promised to double the doles existing in our state at the current level.  As the political parties are yet to come out with their manifestos, it appears that each of them will only better the promise of freebies made by the other. There is no end into the depth to which the parties can come down to in making absurd promises towards selfish interest of getting elected. Everything is fair in love, war and election! 

With a huge young electorate the AAP has promised to create 50,000 jobs in the next five years in different sectors without showing the road map.  The Congress party  is promising that they would see to it that only locals get employment in the state of Goa without telling us as to how such promise could be fulfilled in the teeth of Article 16 of the Constitution of India which prohibits regional discrimination in employment. 

There is no doubt that distribution of money and materials has long been a deeply entrenched in our political system at election time. The promise of continuous freebies for the next five years from the state funds via the election manifestoes has overtaken the central stage of election campaign.  In 2011 ‘Amma’ promised free mixers, grinders, fans, goats, cows in the election manifesto and actually distributed them besides the 20 kilograms of rice free of cost every month to eligible card holders while the very poor received 35 kg a month through PDS. 

‘Amma’ Canteens scheme a few days before the announcement of 2016 assembly elections provided enough fillip to her campaign.  AAP gained an electoral mileage by promising free electricity and free water to Delhites in the 2015 elections. Mamata Didi’s boys beat the Narada odds with doles for local clubs totaling Rs 100 crores for support to Trinamul, besides the dole Rs 750 per month and Rs 1500 per month to unemployed youth. Students were given bicycles.  

Though such promises and distribution of freebies have not yet been construed to be corrupt practice at law. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that such promises ‘shakes the root of a free and fair election’ to a large degree {2013(9) SCC 659}. The Supreme Court was seized with a case of DMK and AIDMK promising colour TVs, fans, mixers, grinders and laptops in the manifestos in 2006 and 2011.

A government cannot be faulted for bringing in certain polices which are directed towards specific goals like the distribution of free bicycles in Bihar and West Bengal the scheme was to provide transport to students in villages. Such a scheme replicated in Goa to all students makes no sense. If a state has excess funds, the decision to provide doles and freebies is tolerable. Our economy is in the red and with the Goa government  public debt standing at over Rs 10,000 crores  and the state government  unable to fulfill its obligations on different government contracts, the practice of dolling out make it irrational. Could that money not be utilized in a productive manner to build better schools, better hospitals in the villages better infrastructure etc. and providing tax relief to the all ready burdened citizenry?

Nobody grudges benefits for the poor. Social welfareism is all about taking care of them. Policies and schemes shall have to be designed with the aim of helping the underprivileged. Look around: persons zooming on two- wheelers and at times on four wheelers are given the benefit of different schemes and doles. There are hardly any restrictions. All you require is contact with the local MLA. The entire exercise is to cultivate  vote banks.  Over a period of time the system has developed whereby these doles and schemes have become lucrative substitute of genuine development and entire governance is reduced to that abysmal level. In this competitive election system, it is high time the issue is taken up with the seriousness it deserves. Bankruptcy of ideas cannot be permitted to have a free run.    

(The writer is a practicing advocate, senior faculty in law and political analyst)
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