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Electoral Freebies

Over the past few decades, the practice of freebies has risen to the spotlight of politics. Electoral freebies, in Indian politics, is the act of promising and providing services or products (electricity supply/ water supply/ items) free of cost to daily wage workers or unemployed people to secure their votes during elections.

Due to the heavy usage of this strategy, in January 2021, Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition against the usage of Electoral freebies and all the parties who benefit from the malpractice, contending that such decisions by the political parties violated Articles 14, 162, 266(3), and 282 of the Constitution. 

The Supreme Court's stand on 3rd August stated that it was in the best interest of the political environment to set up a body of officials who can "dispassionately" dispose off the usage of Freebies. The Election Commission of India supported the Supreme Court's suggestion of institutionalising a committee and taking a holistic approach in order to suppress the culture of freebies but showed unwillingness to become a part of the said body. 

Freebies is a strategy employed by many political parties during elections. While they might have a damaging impact on the economy, it results in heavy votes from the rural population of the country. It is to be noted that these products and services are usually provided with the help of the public welfare fund. 

Freebies are claimed by the government and distributed among potential voters, however the public welfare fund bears the cost. Not only does this impact the funds, it also causes a significant impact on the economy of India. “The poor need to be fed but public welfare needs to be balanced because the economy is losing money due to freebies,” said the Supreme Court. 

Since the first hearing of the petition was in January 2021, there have been multiple hearings however the Supreme Court is yet to give a proper verdict, saying it is a "serious issue and those who are getting (the freebies), want it. Ours is a welfare state. Some may say that they are paying taxes and it has to be used for developmental processes...So both sides have to be heard by committee."

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