Welfare measures, “uncharitably termed” “freebies” in the Supreme Court, have not made Tamil Nadu a poorer State, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which is in power in the State, said in the Supreme Court.
In detailed written submissions, the DMK, through senior advocate P. Wilson, said it is these schemes which have reduced income gaps and contributed to development in the State.
“They have been instrumental in propelling Tamil Nadu to be among the top three States in terms of GDP and industrialisation, and 18 of the top 100 education institutions are located in Tamil Nadu. Due to such prosperity, inward migration from other States has increased to 8.3%... The free healthcare facilities are unparalleled,” Mr. Wilson argued.
The DMK even advised petitioner-advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay “to live in Tamil Nadu for a few years to understand how social welfare schemes can uplift a society as a whole and contribute to the happiness of the people”.
A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, is hearing a petition filed by Mr. Upadhyay to rein in “irrational freebies”, saying they are sucking the States into a debt trap.
Mr. Wilson said ‘freebies’ is a harsh moniker with a negative connotation. These are welfare schemes to uplift socially and economically the weaker sections who remain deprived because of centuries of social and economic oppression by upper castes.
“Today, the affluent sections, who come from generations of wealth, are asking why a child or groups of people from the downtrodden and oppressed sections should have free education, free books, free travel, free medicine, free food? The answer is because for hundreds of years, their families were not given the same opportunity as the upper echelons of society. It is not a freebie but a tool to bring about social and economic equality... The State of Tamil Nadu has been at the forefront of social justice and social welfare measures,” the written submission said.
For example, the submissions pointed out how the government under Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has made travel in State Corporation-owned buses free for women. “Data have shown that up to 12% of the household income is saved by this measure in the homes of the lowest economic strata. This makes a huge difference to their quality of living as they are able to spend that money elsewhere,” Mr. Wilson argued.
Money cannot be spent with a mathematical precision towards the welfare of people. India is a country with unity in diversity. What is good for people and how money has to be spent is certainly within the domain of State and State legislature, Mr. Wilson contended.