It is the duty of the state to equalise wealth among citizens in order to provide inclusive growth, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has submitted before the Supreme Court, reported NDTV on Saturday.

The submission was made in a plea filed to oppose a public interest litigation by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking directions to the Election Commission to not allow political parties to promise “freebies” during poll campaigns.

The Aam Aadmi Party, the DMK, the Congress and Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party have filed intervention applications seeking that the court should hear their stand on the matter.

In its submission, the DMK said that due to lack of access to education and employment because of caste discrimination and colonial rule, a vast majority of citizens remain poor and downtrodden.

“They [the citizens] do not have access to basic amenities which the persons from generational wealth do,” Senior Advocate P Wilson, representing the DMK, said. “It is the state’s duty to equalise wealth to provide for inclusive growth.”

The DMK also listed several welfare schemes undertaken by the Tamil Nadu government to highlight that the measures have uplifted the citizens.

“Dravidian model government in Tamil Nadu has made State Corporation owned bus travel free for all women,” it said. “Data has shown that up to 12% of the household income is saved by this measure in the homes of the lowest economic strata.”

The party said that due to midday meal schemes, a high number of children have started to attend schools that resulting in improvement in their literacy rates and levels of nutrition.

“All these welfare measures have not made TN [Tamil Nadu] a poorer state,” the DMK said. “Instead, it has contributed to its development and reduced the high gap in income equality. These welfare schemes have been instrumental to propel TN to be amongst top three states in terms of GDP and industrialisation.”

It alleged that the petition filed by Upadhyay lacked merit and has been filed to settle political scores with BJP’s rival political party in Punjab, apparently referring to the Aam Aadmi party, reported PTI.

“The yardstick to be applied for classifying a welfare scheme to be a ‘freebie’ cannot be so rigid that every service provided by the government to its citizens be termed as a ‘freebie’,” the DMK said. “If such a meaning is applied, it would render all government facilities such as education, healthcare to be freebies, which is unconscionable.”

Earlier hearings

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between “freebies” and social welfare schemes.

“The question is what constitutes right promises?” Chief Justice NV Ramana asked. “Can we describe the promise of free education as a ‘freebie’? Can free drinking water, minimum essential units of powers etc. be described as ‘freebies’? Can consumer products and free electronics [be] described as welfare?”

On August 11, Ramana had orally observed that there was a difference between “freebies” announced by political parties and social welfare schemes of governments.

On August 3, the court had suggested that an expert body consisting of various stakeholders such as the government, the NITI Aayog, the Finance Commission, the Law Commission, the Reserve Bank of India, and members of the Opposition should be formed to give their suggestions on the matter.