Subsidy given for poor is welfare measure, not freebie: Experts

If people are starving, giving free ration to them is not a freebie, said CPM Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo | EPS)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo | EPS)

NEW DELHI: As controversy erupted over freebie politics, experts and parliamentarians say that it is absurd to make fun of welfare measures that are part and parcel of policies in all welfare states.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court criticised political parties for handing out freebies ahead of elections. The court said that there is a clear distinction between welfare measures and freebies.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked that election freebies add to taxpayers’ burden and prevent the country from becoming self-reliant. However, Prof Balveer Arora, chairman of the Centre for Multilevel Federalism said that welfare states provide free health and free education and these are not freebies. “These are the rights that are due to citizens,” he said.

He also asserted that there is a misunderstanding on the question of welfare measures and freebies. “When it comes to coming to the help of the poor and the needy, those are classified as freebies. When it comes to writing off unproductive bad loans of crores and crores by banks, as those are not considered freebies, they are called restructuring,” he said.

Many opposition-ruled states say that providing subsidies for ration or power to the poor shouldn’t be called freebies. It is an infringement upon states’ rights, says CPM Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas.

“It’s a policy decision of the government. It’s a welfare measure. It should be left to the states. Giving poor people their sustenance is not a freebie. If people are starving, giving free ration to them is not a freebie,” he said.

Arora further said that the Supreme Court shouldn’t have meddled in the issue. “It is not for the Supreme Court to enter into this dialogue between the parties and the voters and what they promise in exchange for votes. It has nothing to do with the judiciary, this is a dialogue between the political parties who are fighting for elections and the voters,” he said.

Pros & Cons of Incentives

Here is a look at both sides of programmes run for public hold ground.


  • Removing Inequity

The government seeks to address the issue of inequity by ensuring access to a wide range of basic facilities such as banking, electricity, housing, insurance, water etc.

  • Providing Access

Benefits under schemes like PM Awas Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission and Jal Jeevan Mission have eliminated the excessive upfront cost of access for citizens.

  • Use of Technology in Direct Transfer Benefits

Identification of beneficiaries through the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) and prioritisation based on deprivation criteria has enabled the government to assist those who need freebies the most.

  • Giving more focus to expenditure on growth generating items

Investors, both domestic and foreign, and credit rating agencies look to macro stability in terms of sustainable levels of debt and fiscal deficit.


  • Upsetting India’s quest for Sustainable Development
  • India took various initiatives at COP21 in Paris, International Solar Alliance and the COP26 in Glasgow to forge a path of growth towards intergenerational equity.
  • However, these objectives will be achieved through many forms of freebies.
  • Lowering the electricity price for some consumers, at the cost of overcharging industrial and commercial contracts, reduces competitiveness which results in slower growth.
  • India’s inability to meet an orderly transition to an era of renewable energy critically depends on the health of state electricity boards, which is undercut by the freebie culture.

Manufacturing and Employment

  • Freebies lower the quality and competitiveness of the manufacturing sector by detracting from competitive infrastructure.
  • They prevent growth and gainful employment.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express