Even as the debate continues on what constitutes a “freebie” vis-a-vis a welfare scheme, the Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad refrained from commenting on the Chief Justice of India’s observations and said the matter is sub judice.
Some state governments declare freebies during election time to attract voters, Karad told BQ Prime. “Different governments—central or state—while working declare different schemes. The schemes are for welfare of people, particularly for the poor people,” the minister said.
“But some governments—particularly state governments—I want to tell, declare freebies during election time and that is to attract voters.”
The matter is being discussed in the apex court after the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition seeking a ban on political parties offering freebies during elections to attract voters.
During the court proceedings, the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana questioned if the central government made a law that states cannot give freebies, will such a law be open for judicial scrutiny.
Karad refrained from commenting on the CJI’s observation as the matter is sub-judice. However, he said that the Finance Minister has encouraged a discussion on the subject.
The debate on freebies gained momentum earlier this month after the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, responding to comments by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kerjiwal, noted that health and education have never been called freebies and that no Indian government has ever denied them.
The debate prompted the Monetary Policy Committee member Ashima Goyal to tell PTI, in an interview, that freebies distort prices, pose a challenge to production and resource allocation, and impose large indirect costs. “Freebies are never free,” she said.