Interview

‘Revri’ debate | There is a difference between freebies and welfare, says YSR Congress MP Vijay Sai Reddy

YSR Congress Parliamentary Party leader Vijay Sai Reddy. File

YSR Congress Parliamentary Party leader Vijay Sai Reddy. File | Photo Credit: G.N. Rao

Leader of the YSRCP legislative party in Parliament Vijay Sai Reddy speaks to Nistula Hebbar on the "Revri" issue.....

Prime Minister Modi has repeatedly spoken about "freebies" and its perilous effect on public finance, and now even the Supreme Court has asked that committee be set up to go into the issue. What is your party's view?

We need to understand the definition of freebies or what is being termed as "revri." Freebies are different from welfare schemes. Suppose a television or refrigerator is given, these are freebies as the improvement of health or education in the long term is not there, there will probably be something in the short term in terms of conveniences for the particular household but not long term,. Whereas welfare schemes as introduced by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy, are those aimed at improving human capital, living standards and State gross domestic product and per capita income.

For example, Andhra Pradesh is an agrarian state, and the State government has a scheme called Ryathu Bharosa, ₹15,000 per acre per annum, where chief minister is providing income support to farmers, in a state where 70% of the people are engaged in agriculture, rural economy.

We also have a scheme of fee re-imbursement, here the governemnt of Andhra Pradesh is aiding students, improving enrollment and encouraging higher education. Apart from all these we have the Nadu Nedu scheme for physical imporvement government schools to make them on par with private schools, on health we have set up a government hospital and medical college in all 26 districts of Andhra Pradesh. All that is important for society and public at large is being addressed. This has a long term impact. We are not giving TVs, refrigirators or iron boxes.

But what about the whole argument of Public finances and perilous state they are in?

The government is a continuous body, the party in power can change. Unfortunately, following the bifurcation of the state in 2014, the state's borrowings were ₹1.24 lakh crores, during the next five years of the Telugu Desam Party, that has gone up to ₹2.6lakh crores. In fact, during that period the scheme called Pasuku Kumkuma scheme, giving ₹15,000 to all women, which is a freebie. We haven't done freebies.

There was an uproar during the briefing by the government to all parties on thee crisis in Sri Lanka. Why was that?

Initially in the all party meeting on Sri Lanka and the crisis there, the secretary from the economic affairs department explained the situation there and how, for various reasons, Sri Lanka was facing an economic crisis. Subsequently, he started explaining the situation of various states of India. The question we posed were, first of all, the secretary should not have made the presentation, when it was the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar who had briefed on the strategic situation. Secondly, we objected that a sovereign country like Sri Lanka cannot be compared to individual states. It was completely haphazard. Central government's public debt is 60% of GDP. Why are you not referring to that? Why pick up individual states which are hardly comparable to each other leave alone Sri Lanka? Each state has different compulsions, like Maharashtra has to concentrate on industry while Andhra Pradesh is largely agricultural.

The Supreme Court has said that a committee needs to be formed to look into the whole issue.

In my view, it is the people who decide whether a particular government continues or whether its policies are acceptable or not. The job of the judiciary is to decide whether the law passed by the Parliament is constitutional or not.

But the public at large does not go into the niceties of public finance, most are alerted only when a crisis occurs. Aren’t you expecting too much from the public and too little from the political class?

Requirements of the public and the people of the country is better known to the political class than the judiciary. People require nutrition, health and education services and it is for the political class and governments, especially the state governments to bring out policies for that. Courts are not the fora for this.

But then how does one get state governments to toe the line of fiscal prudence?

There are rules. What is the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act? Any state government is not following the FRBM Act the Central government can then step in and say see you are not following this, and therefore your access to more credit will be circumscribed. If the Central government does not permit you to borrow, then how can a state govermment access that credit?


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Printable version | Aug 27, 2022 11:44:09 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/revri-debate-there-is-a-difference-between-freebies-and-welfare-says-ysr-congress-mp-vijay-sai-reddy/article65761349.ece