The sterile debate on freebies in India

The discussion we must move towards is on how best the government can provide the required social goods to everyone, aiming ultimately at every individual’s overall development.

In February 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged that India’s political parties were resorting to distributing free revdi to people for votes. “Those with revdi culture will never build new expressways, new airports or defence corridors for you. Together we have to defeat this thinking, remove revdi culture from the politics of the country,” he said. Revdi means sweets, but in the discussion that has followed the Prime Minister’s comments, the term has come to refer to freebies.

Since then, much has been written on India’s “freebie culture.” The discourse has been dominated by the argument that state governments …


R. Ramakumar

R. Ramakumar is an economist and a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.