Plan panel asks state govts to stop freebies

The Planning Commission has asked states to focus on improving health, education and other sectors, which directly help in the overall improvement of society, instead of wasting public money on providing free laptops, television sets and mobiles .

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who started meeting chief ministers to decide the Twelfth Plan outlay amount for the year 2013-14, is learnt to have cautioned them against dolling out cheap programmes to impress voters.

State governments should focus on schemes which help all sections of society. Providing better infrastructure in different sectors like health, education, sanitation and drinking water should be the focus,” a senior officer of the Planning Commission told Deccan Herald.

The commission had also opposed programmes of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to supply free electricity to farmers, saying it would lead to overexploitation of groundwater.

The plan panel also said the states should focus more on giving uninterrupted electricity and providing good infrastructure to farmers to boost agriculture productivity than supplying free power.

The Centre has no power to prevent the states from announcing populist scheme as funds for these schemes come from the state exchequer

However, the Planning Commission can instruct them to ensure that such programmes do not lead to fiscal deficit, said the officer.  Before doling out freebies, the state must ensure that such schemes do not affect the funding of other developmental activities.

Any schemes announced by the state should lead to inclusive growth. Just populist schemes eyeing votes do not serve the purpose, said the officer. 

Several state governments like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are giving free laptops to students. Odisha is also giving free mobiles to farmers. The commission cautioned the states against such schemes, apprehensive that in the run-up to the general election next year many chief ministers may announce such populist programmes for wooing votes.

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