very political party worth its salt wants to win polls. This gets all the more obvious in an election year when it becomes expedient for parties, especially those in power, to step up their populist programmes. Ruling parties loosen their purse strings to ensure that voters re-elect them. Hardly do they care whether the government has adequate resources to bankroll the sops. Promises are made and doles are delivered. In electoral politics, a political outfit will stop this only at its own peril. It is not surprising that the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in the state has announced multiple freebies for various segments of beneficiaries ahead of elections. But from where the cash will come is anybody’s guess. Unveiling of populist schemes has a double disadvantage. First, the government, in the absence of sufficient internal resources, will have to resort to various types of borrowings to finance its welfare programmes. That will hamstring it from investing in capital formation. When done in a sustained manner, this will have a debilitating impact on the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). The other long-term impact of giving away freebies will be to create massive number of parasites. The system will create lazy people who because of these doles will shun working.
The state government has been distributing rice at one rupee per kg to labourers and the working class. Cooked meals are available in urban pockets at Rs 5. Why should people work when they are getting food on a platter? An RBI annual report says the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is causing a labour crisis in farming. The report says that since rural households across six states surveyed chose to work under MGNREGS over doing traditional labour, it leads to an agricultural labour crisis. The observation was based on a primary survey of 1,798 job card workers in Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The shift to MGNREGS from traditional employment was higher in casual labour households and was the highest in Odisha with 75 per cent of its households shifting to MGNREGS followed by Uttar Pradesh (66 per cent) and West Bengal (42.5 per cent).
Thanks to plenty of welfare programmes of the state government and the Centre, labour migration in villages has slowed to a large extent. Since workers do not leave their villages in search of work in cities, there is a huge shortage of labourers in urban areas. Even in villages, the labour class shies from working in fields as they are assured of their next meal. Contractors are facing tough times to complete civil works within time. Although higher wages are offered, workers from rural pockets are not coming for civil work in cities. Mindless freebies have killed the spirit of the working class in Odisha to work and earn. Instead of giving freebies, which is done to win votes, the government must encourage beneficiaries to work and earn. This will help them contribute positively to the economic growth of the state and the country. The current system in Odisha has created lakhs of lazy people here who because of these doles abhor working. The situation has led to an influx of labourers from Jharkhand, West Bengal and neighbouring states to Odisha. In simple terms, it is a double whammy for the state economy. Import of labour from other states has led to an exodus of capital from here, while the system has created a class of inactive people who don’t have to do anything to earn their living. Society is paying as a large part of the SGDP goes out owing to import of labour and it supports a class of parasites. It is a sure recipe for economic doom.