By Sridevi Gade
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on April 22, Friday strongly justified various welfare schemes implemented by his government in the State. Addressing a gathering welfare schemes of women self-help groups at Ongole city, the CM rubbished the arguments that welfare schemes, mostly also called freebies, are disastrous for the economy. In fact, Jagan said, they would empower the weaker sections including women, in society.
CM Jagan who visited the district after his Cabinet reshuffle on April 11, replied to the attacks by a section, since recently that the freebies that are offered by some states in the country spell doom to the economy. This argument first came up at a meeting of senior IAS officers with PM Modi in Delhi recently. They said that there must be a mechanism to stop this practice of offering sops to the poor.
This argument was also picked by Opposition TDP leader and former CM Chandrababu Naidu, among others to attack Jagan in AP. Naidu has been saying that Jagan’s welfare schemes, most of them give direct sops to the poor, are not good for the economy. Naidu and his son and TDP general secretary Lokesh have been saying that if the practice continues, AP will soon become another Sri Lanka, which is in deep financial crisis now.
Jagan refuted the criticism on Friday and told the women beneficiaries in the crowd that: “They (TDP leaders) want me stop giving you welfare sops, they want me to stop all pro-poor schemes.They say, these are the bad things to do, which will make our state another Sri Lanka”. Jagan reeled out statistics of the welfare schemes of his since May 2019, when he came to power.
In the last 35 months, Jagan’s government has given away around Rs 1,36. 694 crore to the people through various welfare or freebies schemes. “I always thought that your problems are mine, and wanted to remove them through these schemes. The Gang of Four – indirectly mentioning Naidu, and three media houses that are identified with TDP – want me to stop these pro-poor schemes,” said CM Jagan.
“They say, AP will become America, if only I stop all schemes that SC/ST/BC/minorities and women. They are anti-poor. You please try to understand with what sort of opponents I am fighting,” said Jagan. He explained government had spent around Rs 9,180 crore on nutrition to the poor children, Rd 6,966 crore for the educational support to around 21.55 lakh students and Rs 2,500 pensions around 66 lakh old persons. Rs 1,261 crore on interest waiver for the women groups.
CM Jagan’s comments assume significance in view of a raging debate across the country, where some economists and pro-BJP pundits have been opposing these freebies. They say, some states like Punjab, AP, Kerala, Telangana, Rajasthan and Bengal have been resorting to fiscal profligacy and wasting the public money to win the elections. Interestingly, they are states ruled by non-BJP parties.
Perhaps, Jagan may be the first CM from this block of states who defended his policies on the ground that every freebie or pro-poor scheme is an indirect mechanism to bring them out of the poverty line. Welfare, if implemented efficiently, will help the vulnerable sections and contribute to their growth, means Jagan. This may be the view of other CMs who are accused of freebies spenders too.