With political parties aiming to outdo each other by showering sops on voters all the time, Tamil Nadu might well be the ultimate freebie state.
While giving sops and doles to voters has been the in thing in this southern state for decades, things started going a bit overboard a couple of decades back.
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The DMK opened the gates of this freebie culture in 2006 after the state Assembly elections by distributing colour television sets as per its poll promise, and the AIADMK in 2012 went a step further by giving away laptops, mixies, grinders and table fans.
DMK spent over Rs 3,340 crore on 1,52,80,000 14-inch TV sets with each costing an average of Rs 2,456. They were distributed in five phases between 2006-10. AIADMK spent Rs 1,200 crore in 2012-13 on procuring 7,84,000 laptops for students and is expected to spend Rs 10,200 crore in the next five years.
On mixies, grinders and table fans, Rs 2,000 crore was spent by the ruling AIADMK. 3.5 million beneficiaries were recipients of this scheme. In 2014-15, Rs 1,250 crore was spent on the same once again.
For a state grappling with power deficit, daily power cuts would mean that mixies, grinders, TVs and table fans cannot run on poll promises. According to the state’s Twelve Year Plan published in 2012, Tamil Nadu is facing a severe power shortage of close to 1,500 MW. The 2013-14 figures of the state’s consumption and unrestricted requirement also show signs of a widening gap. The actual consumption is 87,987 million units as opposed to a requirement of 93,509 million units. An annual report (2013-14) by the Subregional Power Committee shows that Tamil Nadu experiences its highest deficit at the onset of summer. The state fell short of 1,431 MU i.e 17.45% during the month of April, 2013 and 752 MU i.e 10.65% in November, 2013; the same year the Jayalalithaa government started implementing their poll promises.
The growth rate of installed generating capacity of electricity in Tamil Nadu hasn’t been spectacular in meeting the state’s demands either. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation notes that Tamil Nadu had registered a growth rate of 10.52 GW between 2011-13 at a time when states facing similar demands like Rajasthan (24.04 GW) and Madhya Pradesh (26.08 GW) have registered higher growth rates.
Due to long power disruptions in the state, beneficiaries of the state’s social welfare programmes have resorted to selling their ‘poll gifts’ to dealers in second-hand goods.
With the state’s total debt expected to touch Rs 211,483 crore in 2015-16, an outlay of Rs 18,777 crore on various social welfare programmes seems like an extravagance. Funds, perhaps, could be directed towards making the state energy sufficient.