YSRCP today invoked Mahatma Gandhi to justify Jagan Mohan Reddy-government's `welfare programmes' after the Supreme Court expressed concern over the distribution of freebies by political parties. YSRCP leader V Vijayasai Reddy filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court defending the welfare schemes of the Jagan government.
"It is reiterated that governments and policies play a very crucial role in facilitating socio-economic progress. It would not be out of place to mention that the stated aim of the father of our nation was `to wipe every tear from every eye. It is the solemn responsibility of every elected Government to work with this endeavor and till the time there is pain and suffering, the Government's work is unfinished. Given this huge responsibility, elected Governments that enjoy the trust and confidence of the people and which are answerable to the people must be charged with the responsibility to effectively formulate and implement programmes to ensure inclusive progress," Reddy said in the affidavit.
He said it would not be appropriate to regard the initiatives of the Governments formulated in adherence to the principles fundamental to Governance, enunciated in Part – IV of the Constitution of India, in areas such as education, health, woman empowerment, agriculture, housing, poverty upliftment and support to the old and needy, as freebies. "I submit that any committee that is constituted should recommend ways to empower the States to facilitate them to discharge their responsibilities more effectively," he said.
Invoking Article 38 of the Constitution, he said India is the Socialist Republic. "It hardly requires a mention that our country is a welfare State and the Governments and the Union and the State level are tasked with taking measures that ensure that the egalitarian goals set by the framers of the Constitution are attained. The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic, and political, shall inform all the institutions of National life," he said.
"The State shall, in particular, strive to minimize the inequalities in income, and endeavor to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations. Further, Governments have, as some of their fundamental responsibilities, mitigation of health and education inequities, rural and urban disparities, and so forth. To achieve these goals, Governments will have to necessarily incur substantial expenditures, which are revenue in nature. The decision on the type and the magnitude of the intervention to effectively address the core issues and alleviate the distress is that of the elected Government," he said quoting the constitution.
Reddy however hastened to add that programs that are devoid of any true purpose and are implemented only to lure the voters should necessarily be termed as freebies.
"However, painting the programs of vast socio-economic importance that are being implemented to alleviate the prevailing distress with the same brush is, to say the least, an insult to the Constitutional mandate. The elected Governments must be afforded the latitude to formulate interventions and determine their quantum and the period for which they are to be implemented to achieve the desired socio-economic outcome. This is owing to the reason that it is the elected representatives that have a real understanding of the prevailing distress and the real reasons causing that distress," he said.
YSRP leader admitted that some political parties formulate and introduce programs to reap political dividends. There have been instances in the past wherein, political parties in power caused the Government to hurriedly disburse scheme-related benefits just days before the election to lure the voters to vote in favor of that political party.
"The intent of that political party to hoodwink the voters by making a mockery of democracy is quite apparent. Stringent action against such political parties is essential as it would prevent political parties from behaving irresponsibly. On the other hand, there are political parties that have formulated programs after careful deliberations and with absolute clarity as to the intended objectives of those programs, made commitments to the voters before the elections, and are implementing those committed programs after coming to power with utmost sincerity despite several obstacles. Such political parties are working hard with an aim not devoid of merit. In this scenario, it would be unfair to generalize and describe those welfare programs as freebies," he said.
He said in the wake of financial breakdown in our neighboring Country, Sri Lanka, and other Countries elsewhere, there is now an increased consciousness of fiscal sustainability and the need to reduce the pressure of indebtedness on the economies.
"This, by all means, is most necessary, particularly at this crucial juncture wherein, debt in economies across the globe had become burdensome during the last two years, owing to the obstacles of unprecedented magnitude in the light of the cyclical slowdown followed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic causing severe economic disruptions. There was the need to step up public expenditure despite the steep fall in revenues. This expenditure was essential to save lives, support livelihoods, and ensure that the economies do not take a complete nosedive. The debt of Government of India has risen to alarming levels in the year 2020-2," he said
He lamented that Andhra government programs such as Ammavodi, Rythu Bharosa, etc. have unfortunately been referred to as a freebie. With total disregard for the purpose or the impact of these programs, they are reduced to being described as populist measures. "It is most respectfully submitted is highly objectionable," he said.