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‘Welfare schemes radically transformed lives’, AAP seeks to intervene in freebies PIL in SC

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) Aam Aadmi Party has moved the Supreme Court seeking to intervene in a PIL seeking regulation of ‘freebies’ and told the court that petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyay has strong links to the BJP and wants to oppose welfare schemes, which have radically transformed the lives of the weaker sections of society and have been callously labelled as ‘freebies’.

The political party said providing free education, drinking water and healthcare is the constitutional responsibility of the government, however waiving corporate loans is a freebie.

The plea by AAP said: “The petitioner’s prayer to prohibit political parties from promising or making any claims about the manner in which they plan to meet this mandate is not just untenable but also malafide.”

It added that by removing such socialist and welfarist agenda from the electoral discourse, the petitioner seeks to advance the interests of a different, more parochial kind of politics reliant on caste and communal appeals instead of on appeals to the people’s welfare. “The petition, while referring vaguely to ‘freebies’, clearly seeks judicial action against a particular model of economic development by exclusively targeting fiscal expenditure on socialist and welfarist measures for the masses,” said the political party.

The plea contended that it is telling that the petitioner, despite claiming to be concerned about the fiscal deficit, ignores the vast fiscal losses to the exchequer caused by tax rebates, subsidies and other such ‘freebies’ routinely provided to big industries and businesses by the Centre and various state governments alike. “Instead, the petitioner prefers that the burden of improving the fiscal health of the nation be imposed solely on the underprivileged masses,” it said.

AAP claimed that it had the fundamental right to free speech under Article 19 of the Constitution, which included the election speeches and promises for upliftment of the downtrodden. It further argued that prima facie, any restriction on electoral speech of the kind prayed for by the petitioner is not justified. “Restricting such speech will both be irrelevant to any fiscal reform, and also harmful to the healthy democratic functioning of elections and policy-making,” it added.

AAP said the Centre has spent or foregone significant amounts from the exchequer and willingly taken on the concomitant fiscal loss, whenever it has come to aiding the corporate sector and further enriching the rich. “The petitioner because of his politics has consciously chosen not to flag the large amount of fiscal loss which the state and consequently the people suffer because of the very selective benefits which are given to certain industrial sectors, the net effect of which is to benefit and enrich certain business houses,” it added.

Citing welfare schemes adopted by the developed countries, AAP said particularly in the Scandinavian nations, the socialist and welfarist model of development has allowed significant leaps in the nations’ performance across several markers of progress, including but not restricted to markers like the Gini Coefficient which represents economic inequality, and human development index which seeks out an overall assessment of social, educational and health indicators of quality of life.

The Supreme Court, while hearing Upadhyay’s PIL, had acknowledged that some help to the poor is required, but it also wanted to know the impact of freebies on the national economy. The top court had sought suggestions from stakeholders and recommended setting up an expert panel to scrutinise the issues associated with irrational freebies.

–IANS

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