New Delhi: The ‘Sri Lankan crisis’ has certainly thrown up a lesson for authorities in India, and a section of mandarins has alarmed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the politics of freebies in some states.
The issue was flagged off at a high-level meeting convened by the Prime Minister on Saturday (April 2), wherein officials reportedly even said that such syndromes could precipitate ‘Sri Lanka type economic crisis’ in many states.
Punjab, where AAP won recently, is one such state. The newly installed Punjab government headed by Bhagwant Mann has already requested the centre to provide special assistance of Rs 50,000 crore to fulfil some of the election promises.
Some announcements made by the AAP regime in Delhi and respective regional parties in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are understood to be unsustainable and threaten to put financial prudence
Prime Minister Modi has been interacting with secretaries and senior officials from time to time since 2014 and is taking feedback on governance.
The AAP had promised 300 units of free power to every home in Punjab if it won the 2022 polls. The Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi is already providing 200 units of free electricity to each family. The AAP also promised ‘free money ‘to all Punjabi women, regardless of their financial situation or needs. In Delhi, the AAP regime has announced free bus travel for women.
It was pointed out that such measures also prohibit effective work in important social sectors like health and education.
In the case of Delhi, budget proposals called for Rs 3,227 crore for the energy sector for 2021-22, of which Rs 3,090 crore was only for power subsidies. This was a whopping 96 per cent of the total allocation for the sector and nearly 4.5 per cent of the whole budget.
The state of West Bengal has a big-time fiscal crunch, and for many years, the Trinamool Congress government has been seeking a moratorium on loans it took.
Nevertheless, populism and freebies announcements peaked during the 2021 assembly polls.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee is so excited about freebies politics that in February, during Uttar Pradesh polls, she even advised Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav to add a monthly income incentive for women in his manifesto, on the lines of the Lakshmi Bhandar scheme.
Perhaps she forgot to tell Akhilesh that the West Bengal government has a cash crunch, and her dispensation has been largely relying on market borrowings.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said that the opposition-ruled states cannot blame the centre as even the arrears dating back decades were cleared during the last financial year, 2021-22.