Don’t burden utilities, pay for freebies from budget: Sitharaman to parties

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said political parties that come to power on pre-poll promises of freebies should pay for those through budgetary provisions.

Citing the example of free electricity being promised in many states, the finance minister said the burden for the freebies should not be thrust upon the power discoms or gencos.

“If a promise has been made to the people at the time of the election, you are looking at a quid pro quo. You should be, as a responsible party, assume after you come to power, make a provision in the budget for it,” Sitharaman said, speaking at the FE Best Bank Awards event here.

She said in the case of the power sector, there have been cases where states have paid the utilities in parts or not paid at all.

“You end up shifting the burden to the discom which has not gone to the election. The discom has not asked for votes. Why should they be burdened? Do they have the power to stop continuing the supply? And similarly the gencos,” she said.

“The debate is not about what constitutes a freebie, but if you have given a promise, provision for it,” she added.

The remarks come amid a heated debate on the subject of freebies, which have seen the BJP and Opposition parties like AAP being divided. Earlier, Sitharaman had blamed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for giving a perverse twist to the debate.

Underlining that we should have a rigorous debate on the issue of freebies, Sitharaman suggested that the government supports deploying resources to aid one’s journey out of poverty and empowering people, but one should not look at such efforts as entitlements.

“This is an important issue for India to debate and all should join the debate,” she said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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