Welcome change

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has made a welcome change in the policies and priorities of his government with a budget that has an accent on development rather than populist measures. 

The budget for 2014-15, presented last week, has made a break from the past practice of doling out freebies to different sections of population.

The beneficiary 

sections of the population have changed according to the political imperatives of changing times. When the idea of pleasing the youth was the catchword, programmes which were targeted at them were designed and doled out, with no realistic assessment about whether they would actually benefit the intended group.

One such programme which was introduced with fanfare when the Samajwadi Party government came to power was the free laptop scheme for students.

It has now been given a quiet burial in the budget. Another scheme which has been discontinued is one in which Muslim girls were given a lump sum for education and marriage. This was intended to please Samajwadi Party’s minority vote base.

The best development strategy, especially for backward states like UP, is to improve physical infrastructure and basic facilities in health and education, which will help the entire population benefit from them. If the emphasis in the budget on developing infrastructure like roads, bridges, irrigation and power is a sign of this realisation, it marks a commendable policy shift.

 Freebies from the government do not promote growth or help people develop their potential to become productive members of society. The adage that it is better to enable people to fish rather than give them fish to eat is important in public policy, especially in the formulation of economic programmes.

It is because politics is badly fragmented that parties and governments are tempted to cater to the assumed needs of particular sections in order to keep them happy. But even those who are expected to benefit from such programmes ultimately realise that they do not really help and empower them.

This is bound to be reflected in their political responses, as the SP may have realised from the major setback it received in the Lok Sabha election. Growth and development come from well-thought-out economic and social policies, which involve hard work and sometimes even pain in the short term at the implementation stage, not from gifts that drop in the lap from the top.

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