Implications of providing free public utility services

Implications of providing free public utility services

Public utility services are those facilities that the government provides for its citizens to ensure a comfortable life. These features include, but are not limited to the following:

• Electricity,

• Transport services,

• Water,

• Post and communication,

• Security,

• Sanitation,

• Waste management, etc.

The government charges its citizens for each of these services either directly or indirectly. Facilities like gas, transport, water, fuel etc. are directly paid for by the citizens. Facilities like security (for example the police force), waste management, social security etc. are paid for indirectly through the taxes collected from the citizens.

Providing utilities for free

In the Indian sub-context, these services are always paid for. In most developing countries, these services are regularized. This means every household is given a limited supply of essentials such as cooking fuel, or water. This is to ensure that everybody, irrespective of their economic status has access to these facilities. In the absence of such regularization, essential commodities will be in the monopoly of a rich few.

In some countries like the US, these facilities are privately held. However, in India, it would make more sense for the government to hold these services, and monitor them. Take the case of fuel. Currently, dealership is given to private parties. In the best interest of the citizens, it might be better to hold fuel in the public domain; perhaps that would control the rapidly rising

It will not be possible to provide public utilities to citizens at no cost. Not only will the government incur heavy expenditure, and losses, but it will also reduce the value of these facilities in the eyes of people. If water is given free of cost, taps will be left open all day everywhere, and buses would be vandalized. As it is, several of these facilities are loss running organizations (such as local transport buses), if they are provided for free, it would be impossible for the government to continue these services. However, there are cases where funds are being insufficiently used, such as public toilets. It is the responsibility of the government to build and maintain public toilets in every locality.


As the saying goes, there are no free lunches! Therefore, the utilities that are provided by the government should be charged to the citizens utilizing them. Some of the facilities should be subsidized, and some facilities need to be improved.
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