Amidst debate on what qualifies as freebie and what not and allegation about benefiting a few, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday emphasised the present government’s approach is one of empowerment through saturation of existing schemes rather than that of entitlement. She also made it clear that government is not sparing anyone who has cheated the banking system.

Addressing the audience at the release of 100th edition of Economic Newsletter of BJP Karnataka unit during her visit to Bengaluru, she explained the difference between entitlement and empowerment. She highlighted that the approach to development that Modi government employs, even as Prime Minister brings in schemes that benefit the needy people, is by the principle of saturation so that they cover everybody eligible.

“Saturation is a measure of empowerment. Every Indian citizen deserves to have access to basic facilities without getting beholden to anybody. Our approach is one of empowerment through saturation of existing schemes rather than that of entitlement,” she said. Taking example of 20 points programs of previous government, she said that effort was just to give money to poor people as an entitlement without empowering him.

“Every Indian citizen who got to have basic minimum facility, should be given and after that he will take care of himself and his family so the distinction of approach is looking at it from an entitlement perspective what was earlier to empowerment principal and therefore when you reach saturation and then give them the facility, they are out there to get themselves skilled,” she said.

Freebies issue

These remarks have been made at a time when strong political debate is going on the issue of freebies. On Friday the political acrimony over freebies grew bitter on Friday with the BJP accusing AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal of using it as a “bait” to trap people for power while the Congress and the AAP hurled a ‘gajak’ and ‘Dostwadi’ politics jibe in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘revdi’ remark. Stepping up its attack on Kejriwal, whose party is in power in Delhi and Punjab, the BJP also accused the Delhi Chief Minister of speaking lies about his freebies for political benefits, and asserted they are different from the Centre’s welfare schemes which are aimed at economic empowerment of weaker sections of the society.

Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia alleged that the ‘Dostwadi’ model of the BJP waives loans of lakhs of crores of rupees of its friends but deprives common people of facilities like health and education. “They do ‘Dostwadi’ politics (for welfare of friends) and we do politics for the common people,” he said in the press conference.

Countering this Finance Minister Sithharaman said that this government is making all efforts to get the money back from fraudsters. “We are ensuring that those who’ve cheated the banks & have gone away, they’re pursued relentlessly, their properties are auctioned & money is given back to the banks. That’s happening continuously,” she said.

Earlier a senior Finance Ministry official explained that write-offs are not loan waivers. Write-offs are technical requirements as per the RBI, and the recovery process continues. RBI data show that not only has the amount written off by PSBs fallen since 2018-19, the amount recovered from written off accounts has increased over that period. Banks have recovered over ₹8.6-lakh crore bad loans in the last eight years on account of strong measures initiated by the government and the Reserve Bank, the person said.