Whoa! KCR's Rythu Bandhu a freebie, but not Modi's corporate loan write-offs

This July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his now common advisory role as a World Guru, cautioned people against what he called "rewari culture".

CM KCR, Prime Minister Narendra Modi

CM KCR, Prime Minister Narendra Modi

This July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his now common advisory role as a World Guru, cautioned people against what he called "rewari culture". Modi referred to a popular Indian sesame-seed sweet to describe politicians offering "freebies" to the poor in order to get votes.

Interestingly, Modi said this while inaugurating the Bundelkhand highway in Uttar Pradesh and promising the state of UP that it was well on its way to becoming world class. It is another matter that a section of the highway collapsed a few days later after heavy rain. The world is a large place; you can choose which class UP corelates to. Or, you could have offered some rewari to the contractors so they need not have cheated on the material.

Not surprisingly, there was a massive uproar and Tamil Nadu's finance minister PT Thiaga Rajan was most vociferous and tore both Modi's contention and a subsequent Supreme Court observation on "freebies" to shreds. The apex court's remarks came after a petition by BJP member Ashwini Upadhayay to set up a mechanism to regulate election promises. The AP government, in fact, has impleaded itself into this case. We'll come back to this later.

The fact is that the South Indian states have been consistently better at planning and organizing "freebies", which in a normal world, would be considered welfare schemes for a developing nation.

As many others have pointed out, loan write-offs and tax-cuts to corporates and big businesses are not seen as "freebies". Rather they exist to create a conducive investment environment.

And yet, consistently in a country like India, where large sections of the population barely exist at very basic subsistence levels, with continuing problems of malnutrition and undernutrition, rising rural poverty levels, lack of basic infrastructure in health and education, not to mention low employment opportunities and job losses especially post-pandemic, politicians and policy wonks are scathing about any help for the poor.

Were table fans with Jayalalitha's face on them freebies to get votes? Maybe or rather, possibly. However, they did provide relief in the heat of Tamil Nadu. So also schemes which provided laptops for students, or bicycles to women and so on.

Rythu Bandhu, Dalit Bandhu, Aasara essential indeed

Or how about K Chandrashekhar Rao's Telangana schemes like Dalit Bandhu to help Scheduled Castes with income-generating economic support. The Aasara pension scheme for senior citizens, widows, AIDS patients and others, is another much-needed initiative, especially in a country where we have no social security net at all, particularly for senior citizens.

The bigger scam then is promises made which are not kept. Let's get back to this as well.

The Rythu Bandhu investment scheme for farmers in Telangana has seen some decent success as has the Rythu Bharosa scheme in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. But it is interesting that it is these very schemes that Union Home Minister Amit Shah decided to attack recently. It is almost as if the BJP and the Centre have completely forgotten the rage of the farmers who sat outside Delhi demanding that the Modi government take back its ill-considered MSP scheme. If the BJP does not want to help farmers, neither must anyone else apparently.

Farmers are given subsidies world over

The world over, farmers are given subsidies – because of the vagaries of agriculture. What is required is intelligent planning while taking all stakeholders on board, and we know from experience that the Modi government is incapable of either.

In fact, we need to seriously ask ourselves as citizens, what we have achieved in the past eight years, since 2014.

How many poll promises have been made by the BJP at the Centre and how many kept.

For one, we never got that famous Rs 15 lakhs each, since the Union Home Minister kindly informed us in a TV interview that that was a lie. Perhaps Ashwini Upadhyaya might want to add that promise to his affidavit?

Then, there was the promise of "development" for all. Well, "the all" part went out of the window with the lynching of Mohammed Akhlak and the death knell for development was sounded with Modi's fabulous demonetisation scheme of 2016 which all but brought the Indian economy to its knees.

Then there was the Clean Ganga Mission. Thousands of crores poured into the scheme, but the river remains dirty.

Thousands of crores poured into Swachch Bharat, but India remains dirty.

The banking sector's NPAs and loan defaulters have gone up. Prominent defaulters have run away abandoning their debts, creditors and employees with no consequences. It is public sector banks which struggle the most and that is our money being given away to the rich. Modi's much-touted and applauded bankruptcy law now faces massive allegations of abuse and corruption.

Basically, freebies have been given hand over fist to the rich and the rich have either got much, much richer or the rich have left India.

But a small quantity of free grains to a person who barely ekes out an existence is withheld. Unless she spends Rs 20, she does not have for a polyester flag the PM says she must wave.

Better a rewari culture than one of barbaric cruelty and stupidity being foisted on us.

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