UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | Sop or Welfare Debate | 5th August, 2022

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What the article is about:
  • The article talks about concerns about freebies, and formation of a body of stakeholders by supreme court to decide on the question of freebies.
 
Relevance:
  • GS2: Government policies and intervention 
 
Analysis:
  • The article discusses about sop offered to voters before election, and how to differentiate them from the welfare measures.
 
What are the concerns about freebies:
  • General concern is that freebies pushes economy to ruin, as freebies are not really free, someone has to pay for them.
  • Adversely affects informed decision making by the voters.
 
What judiciary has done about it:
  • Supreme Court decided to form a body of stakeholders( NITI Aayog, finance commission, Law commission) to examine the issue.
  • In Subramaniam Balaji vs Government of Tamilnadu (2013) Supreme Court upheld the distribution of television set or consumer goods on the ground that schemes targeted at women, farmers and the poorer section were in furtherance of Directive Principles.
  • Supreme Court held that as long as public funds were spent based on appropriations cleared by the legislature, they could neither be declared illegal, nor the promise of such items be termed as a “corrupt practice”.
 
How can the sops and welfare measures be distinguished:
  • SC directed the ECI (election commission of India) to frame guidelines to regulate the manifesto.
  • ECI included in its MCC( model code of conduct) that parties should avoid promises “that vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on the voters”.
  • Manifesto should contain the rationale for a promised welfare measure and indicate the means of funding it.
 
Conclusion:
  • Any further steps, such as distinguishing welfare measures from populist sops, or adding the obligations of fiscal responsibility and fiscal prudence ought to come from the legislature.
  • Judiciary should not try to bypass the legislature regarding the discussion of subsidies and other welfare measures.



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