Experts caution againstgiving freebies without focus

Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India C. Rangarajan has emphasised the need for sustained economic growth in Tamil Nadu, even as the State implements various welfare schemes.

During a discussion on the book, The Dravidian Years: Politics and Welfare in Tamil Nadu, authored by retired IAS officer S. Narayan, at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Mr. Rangarajan cautioned against distributing freebies without focus and a targeted approach.

Mr. Rangarajan, also the Chairman of the Madras School of Economics, said: “Welfare is important, but to what extent can it go? Some lines have to be drawn!”

While stating that the distribution of bicycles to girl students and mixies to rural women were understandable, he reserved his views on the distribution of TV sets.

Defending his analysis, Mr. Narayan questioned why the distribution of freebies cannot be equated to asset transfer, like in Kerala, where land is acquired and redistributed to the poor. He also compared governance and the “social equalisation” that took place under three Chief Ministers — M. Karunanidhi, M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa.

‘Pressure on private players’

Professor Reetika Khera of the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad pointed out that there was a need to “unpack the political will” during the initial years of Dravidian party rule to understand how people’s welfare schemes were implemented on the ground. She contended that freebies, as small interventions, had put pressure on private players catering to the needs of the poor.

Referring to the baby kits being distributed by the Tamil Nadu government, she said a study of such kits in Scandinavian countries showed that young mothers preferred them over cash.

J. Jeyaranjan, Director of the Institute of Development Alternatives, observed that freebies helped reduce the dependence of the poor on the landed. “With free rice over the years, the poor became less dependent on the landlords, and thus, [such freebies] ensured social justice,” he said.

Professor M. Vijayabaskar of MIDS pointed out that the Central government followed the Tamil Nadu government in implementing the noon-meal scheme. Assistant Professor A. Kalaiyarasan said that the capacity of the people in Tamil Nadu to aspire for more was among the major reasons for the successful implementation of both State and Central government schemes. MIDS Director Shashank Bhide was present at the occasion.

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