Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, asking to join the proceedings in the case regarding the distribution of “freebies”. An elected government, the petition said, has a responsibility to implement schemes to alleviate poverty and give people better healthcare, education and employment opportunities. Though such expenditure is often classified as revenue expenditure, it has a long-term impact in asset creation and improvement of quality of life, the YSR Congress argued.
The debate over freebies reached the Supreme Court with a petition by the BJP’s Ashwini Upadhyay, which has challenged the promise of freebies at election time.
So far, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party — known for providing free power and water in the states it rules — and Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK have appealed to join the proceedings. In their petitions, both parties have vehemently opposed the BJP leader’s stance.
The petition said though in the current accounting system, expenditure on education, health, agriculture and poverty eradication, are recognised as revenue expenditure, it should not be viewed as “wasteful”.
Money spent on such social sectors have a vast potential to create and strengthen long term human capital and assets of vast socio-economic significance.
The plea also cited economists such as Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer — recipients of the 2019 Sveriges Riskbank Prize in Economic sciences in the memory of Alfred Nobel.
In a series of research papers, these economists have reported that government programmes envisaging direct transfer of benefits have achieved positive outcomes with respect to education, health, the petition said.
The YSR Congress has also claimed that the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the subsequent rule by its rival political party left the state in deep crises.
Moreover, the state’s share in central taxes during the excruciatingly difficult year of 2020-21 was only 29.35 per cent, even though the 15th Finance Commission had recommended 41 per cent.
The petition also cited a survey by NABARD All India Rural Financial Inclusion from 2016-17, which indicated that 76 per cent of rural farming families in the state are struggling with debt, compared to the national average of 47 per cent.
The petition also said elected governments should have the latitude to take decisions on welfare schemes.