Thu, 11 Aug 2022 10:02 PM IST
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday hit out at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for giving a "perverse twist" to the debate on freebies, saying the AAP leader putting education and health in that category is an attempt to create fear in the minds of the poor.
A day after Kejriwal joined the debate on freebies, calling for a referendum on spending taxpayers' money on healthcare and education, Sitharaman said spending on these two has never been called or classified as freebies since Independence and to drag them now in this debate is to give it a "perverse twist".
"Delhi Chief Minister has given perverse twist to the debate on freebies. Health and education have never been called freebies", said Sitharaman, adding "there has to be a genuine debate on the issue and everyone should participate in it".
"No Indian government has ever denied them since Independence. So, classifying education and health as freebies, Kejriwal is trying to bring in a sense of worry and fear in minds of poor," Sitharaman added further.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in recent days hit out at the competitive populism of extending 'rewaris' (freebies) which are not just wastage of taxpayers' money but also an economic disaster that could hamper India's drive to become atmanirbhar (self-reliant).
Sitharaman's strong rebuttal came hours after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the BJP-led Centre is "strongly opposing" free facilities to people as it lacks funds to support such welfare measures after waving loans and taxes worth crores of its "super rich friends".
He said the government schools have been offering free education to children in the country for over seven decades while people are getting free treatment at government hospitals. A provision to provide free ration to the people of this country has also been there for last several years, he said.
But for the last few days, he said, provisions made to give free facilities to people are being opposed vehemently. "It is being argued that the country will become bankrupt and plunge into great economic crisis if the governments continue to provide free facilities to people," he said, asking "What happened all of sudden that all these provisions are being opposed?
Kejriwal said the Centre collects a huge amount of taxes which include about Rs 3.5 lakh crore per annum imposed on petrol and diesel. While the Centre's tax collection has "doubled and tripled" since 2014, its annual budget has also increased from about Rs 20 lakh crore in 2014 to Rs 40 lakh crore today, he said.
(With Agencies Inputs)