On August 1, 2019, months before the Delhi assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal announced free electricity up to 200 units of consumption. This decision received mixed responses. Some were happy they no longer have to worry about their bills, while others expressed concern over the deeper impact of this decision. Let’s dig into this debate and find out for ourselves the truth.
What are Freebies?
A freebie could be anything that you receive free of cost. In the political sense, freebies refer to the promises of free rewards made by candidates to garner votes. AAP offered free electricity up to 200 units and half the bill up to 400 units and free metro and bus rides to women if they win the elections. Freebies are a trend in elections everywhere in India from liquor distribution to free laptops.
Political and Economic Impact of Freebies:
Anything that you receive free from the government isn’t a generous gift by their leaders. Politicians don’t spend their own money. It is public money that is used to provide these freebies.
A huge amount of money is spent on giving such freebies. The Delhi government allocated Rs 3223 Crores to the power department to subsidize electricity this fiscal year.
While there is an estimated fiscal deficit of 5,080 crores in the fiscal year 2020-21. This fiscal deficit will be met using borrowings. This will ultimately harm the public in one or the other form i.e., inflation, rise in taxes/duties etc.
AAP has promised free electricity in many states like Goa and Punjab where elections are coming. If this trend continues, the whole nation will be burdened. India may be the world’s largest population and it is ever going rapidly. With the increase in population, these freebies will only become costlier.
According to the Centre for Policy Research’s Report 2017, an electrified house in Delhi consumes 250-270 units per month on average. This undermines the concept of equity. Consequently, giving a false sense of welfare. This way governments can do away with the responsibility of real development and impactful schemes.
Environmental Impact of Freebies:
Free electricity in Punjab has led to environmental degradation. Free electricity is mainly used in agriculture. There are over 14.5 lakh irrigational tube wells which are run on free state electricity. Since its free its use is rampant.
This has caused overexploitation of Punjab’s water resources. The ground water has decreased subsequently and continues to do so. According to Draft Dynamic Ground Water Estimation Report of July 2019, 2.9 crore acre-ft is extracted every year in Punjab from the ground water while only 1.7 crore acre-ft can be replenished naturally.
It means the ground water isn’t recharging as fast as it is being over-used. If this trend continues, Punjab will have a huge water shortage in the upcoming decade which will ultimately harm agriculture.
What should be done:
Next time you are lured by a freebie ask yourself this question: where is this money coming from? Who is going to pay for it? The answer will probably be you, the public.
You are paying the government, it’s your money and the natural resources of your nation which are being utilized to provide these freebies to everyone without categorization.
Lastly, as you may have heard, “Nothing is free in this world, everything has a price.” So, next time you are lured by a freebie, remember that its price will be paid by you and your nation in even greater amounts over the time to come.