Aren’t loan waivers ‘gifts’ to companies, asks DMK in app before SC

New Delhi: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Tamil Nadu’s ruling party, said the ‘gifts’ petition was politically motivated and asked if the BJP-led Union government’s decision to forego loans from companies were not freebies for companies.

In a request to get involved in the Supreme Court petition, the DMK cites the decision to cancel loans worth Rs 72,000 crore from the Adani Group during the first three years of Narendra Modi’s government. “In [the] Last five years, Rs 9.92 lakh crore loans were written off by banks of which, Rs 7.27 lakh crore is the share of public sector banks alone. Aren’t these gifts for companies? asks the party in the petition filed on Saturday August 20 before the Supreme Court.

The DMK said the petition, filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, only focused on “gifts” promised to marginalized sections of society but did not take into account “massive loan waivers and the tax exemptions that have been granted to companies”.

The party has strongly opposed the use of the word “gifts” to describe welfare measures arising from Part IV of the constitution. “If the applicant is concerned about [the] burden on the public treasury, the petitioner would also have been concerned about the tax breaks and loan exemptions granted to affluent businesses and wealthy individuals. However, the petitioner remained blissfully unaware of these derogations, which are 3 to 4 times larger than the budget devoted to social measures,” he said.

The party has argued that welfare schemes cannot be considered ‘freebies’ as they act as a powerful catalyst to uplift weaker sections.

Tamil Nadu is known for its innovative social programs including the distribution of televisions, bicycles and laptops to those in the economically and socially weaker section. In the application, the DMK requests a response from the petitioner. What is the rationale for wanting to prevent social safety nets such as food, education, and travel subsidies for the poor and oppressed while continuing to provide deep corporate tax breaks?

India’s status as a socialist economy means we must prioritize public welfare by pursuing programs to benefit the weakest section of society, the ruling party argued in its response. . “Equating social spending with gift culture is a flawed analysis, as the fiscal costs outweigh the greater societal benefits these schemes have had over the years,” the response reads.

In one of the earlier hearings, the bench headed by India’s Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said the provision of ‘irrational gifts’ was a serious economic problem and the ‘gift budget’ at election time exceeded the regular budget. The bench had ordered the Electoral Commission to develop guidelines on the matter. To this, the EC had replied that, in the absence of an appropriate law, it could not regulate the promises of political parties to give gifts if elected to office.

Upon the court’s intervention, the response states that the constitution provides several checks and balances to ensure that the state does not mismanage finances and argues that the court “cannot get into policy-making. by legislatures and elected representatives and implemented by governments. “To do so would be a flagrant violation of the demarcation of the separation of powers,” the party said in its response.

Before the DMK, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) filed a petition with the court with a similar claim.

A sign is seen outside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India, September 28, 2018. Credit: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis

The DMK lists various social welfare programs in its response – midday meal, free electricity for the agricultural sector, free housing for the Adi Dravidar community, Rs 5,000 for intercaste marriages, free health care in public hospitals, among others .

All these social measures have not made Tamil Nadu a poorer state, the DMK claims in the petition. “Instead, it has helped its development and narrowed the large income equality gap. These social welfare schemes have helped propel the state of Tamil Nadu into the top 3 states in terms of GDP and industrialization,” the party further states.

The organizing secretary of DMK, RS Bharathi, who is the petitioner, said that the core of the ideology of the Dravidian movement is the socio-economic upliftment of the backward, most backward and all other oppressed layers of the society.

Tracing the origin and rise of the Dravidian movement from the days of the Justice Party about a century ago, Bharathi told the PTI news agency that opening up access to education to people marginalized and backward was the first step taken by the Justice Party (JP) the faithful Thiagarayar (1852-1925).

Thiagarayar made education, books and lunch available to students for free.

“It encouraged students to go to school. How can you qualify such initiatives as gifts? Such initiatives have evolved over time. The breakfast program eventually turned into a nutritious meal program. Now our chief minister, MK Stalin, has started the breakfast program for school children,” Bharathi said. Only such programs have broken down social barriers and opened up access to education for the backward classes and others, which was once only available to a small part of the population, he said.

Education was made available free up to SSLC level during the time of former Chief Minister K Kamaraj. When DMK’s founder, CN Annadurai, took office, he ensured that it was open to students at no cost up to pre-university level. “When Kalaignar (late Chief Minister Mr Karunanidhi) became Chief Minister, it was extended to graduation level. This ensured that students from backward classes and oppressed sections of society continued their education…. Take the aid package of Rs 1,000 announced by our CM Stalin for female students, it is the empowerment of women; it was the dream of social justice icon Periyar EV Ramasamy and forms the foundation of Dravidian ideology,” he said.

(With PTI entries)

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