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CHENNAI: As soon as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa came back into office on May 23 after the elections, she started to dole out the freebies she had promised during her campaign. The first five signatures of hers were on files that dealt with prohibition, free breakfast for government school students, free gold for women getting married, free power for handloom weavers and free power for domestic consumers. On June 1, she also distributed free textbooks, notebooks, and uniforms to students in government and state-aided schools for the 2016-17 academic year.
The cost of signing those first five files on May 23 was as follows states a report in the Business Standard:
Waiver of farm loans – Rs 5,780 crore; Gold for educated brides – Rs 308 crore; 100 units of free power for households – Rs 1,607 crore; 500 Tasmacs shut – Rs 300 crore; Power for handloom weavers – Rs 19.08 crore.
The freebie culture has existed in the state for many years now. Business Standard adds that the freebies, which have been distributed to people in the state, range from free rice, colour television sets, mixer-grinders, fans and gold to cows and goats. In the last decade, over Rs 11,500 crore has been spent on three freebies alone adds the report i.e. colour television sets, laptops and household appliances.
In 2006, the DMK promised free TV sets and rice and notched up debts of over Rs 3600 crore. In 2011, Jayalalithaa went a step further and added laptops for students, gold for brides, free fans, mixers, slippers, uniforms, stipends for students, mobiles and then the AMMA schemes of free salt, tea, water, etc, adds the daily.
Thus, as the freebies kept increasing over the years, so did the state debts. While in 2011, Tamil Nadu’s debt was Rs 1,01,349 crore, at the end of 2014-15 it was Rs 1,81,036 crore.