India a welfare state, time not ripe to stop welfare measures: political leaders

India is a welfare state and time is not ripe yet to stop welfare measures for the people, leaders from various political parties said on Monday, even as the BJP leader in the panel maintained that there should be a distinction between welfare initiatives and the freebie culture.

The leaders were speaking at a panel discussion on “Indian Electoral Democracy@75: Looking Back, Thinking Forward”, organised by Lokniti-CSDS in association with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German foundation.

Leaders from the BJP, the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, the NCP and Samajwadi Party who participated in the discussion agreed that India is a welfare state.

Congress’s Supriya Shrinate wondered why doles by the government are called incentives when they are for the rich and are referred to as freebies when meant for the poor. While Shrinate argued that India has not reached a stage where any government can look away from welfare measures, and the time is not right even for a debate on it, BJP’s Shazia Ilmi maintained that welfare measures and freebies are different.

Ilmi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is popular among the poor for initiatives he has taken for them.

Mario Voigt, a leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who was also part of the panel, said that initiatives from the government should be meant to empower the citizens, and maintain the social order, and not to make people depend entirely on them.

In the panel discussion, moderated by Hilal Ahmed, associate professor at CSDS, the Samajwadi Party’s Juhie Singh and NCP’s Seema Malik spoke on the rise in women’s participation in the election process as a sign of strengthening democracy. Malik attributed the increasing voting percent to the electoral literacy that has gone up over the last few years.

Shrinate cautioned that it is India’s democracy that has given the country a place in the high table, and any attempt to weaken democracy will be damaging to the country.

AAP’s Saurabh Bharadwaj said India has managed to inculcate the roots of democracy in its culture itself.

The event saw the release of the book ‘Elections in India: An Overview’, by Sanjay Kumar, professor and co-director of Lokniti, a research programme at the CSDS.

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