It finally happened what we were apprehensive that the increased prices of food items pushed the food inflation to 18 percent. It has made common people cry, because in line with food items the prices of almost all those domestic stuffs, which are necessary for the middle class families, have gone up. The prices of some of those are either going down or fixed in the international market. The claim of Central government to check on high prices has not only proved void but also appeared complete false. Recently, Home Minister P Chidambaram’s statement gave a big jolt to the nation that he lost faith in the government whether it has sufficient methods to check the northward prices. Chidambaram, who held the Finance Ministry twice, also stated that rising price is per se a tax. The acceptance of not sufficient options to bridle soaring prices is not a common matter when it comes from a senior minister of the Central government and also known as an economist, who has been in power for the last seven years. His statement clearly speaks that the ruling government is groping in darkness on the price issue.
When inflation touched double digits in last year, the government gave assurance of controlling it soon, but it proved futile. After that, the government tossed several causes responsible for the hike in prices. Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia put his logic that price is going high because of income of people is upping. This statement caused severe criticism, but later such sorts of statements were given by other leaders too. Recently Finance Minister Pranab Mukherji also said, price is escalating due to high income as well as issued directions to state governments to take action against hoarders.
If it is assumed that the income of average Indians increased because of the economy hovering around 8 percent for the last many years, however it is not a general matter. The moot point is why could not the government make an arrangement to enhance production of foodgrains and vegetables? A committee under the chairmanship of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda recommended that there should be farming in foreign countries to meet demand of the country. If there has been such a situation, it means that Agriculture Ministry is just sitting idle and does not want to take pain to increase the farm produces.
It is well known that India is primarily an agricultural country, but the plight of the farm sector is worsening. Although governments are mainly formed in states and Centre with the votes of farmers, the ruling people ignore them. Rural economy is gradually depending on government’s aid, while the urban economy has primarily become dependent on private sectors. Now it should be considered that whether the rural economy is going paralyzed in the wake of its dependency on government’s crutches? Some economists say that owing to dependency on government system agriculture sector is hooked with its weakness. As the dependency of farm sector on government system gets political benefits, they are not ready to change the scenario. Government’s hold on agriculture sector continues as system gives space to scams and scandals to happen and cover them up as well. There seems to be a kind of corruption behind soaring prices of food items.
However, Chidambarm goes on saying that the government has not sufficient measures to check the price hike, but it is difficult to believe that the administrative system which has been running since the British time has gone so weak in a decade that bureaucrats do not have any idea of where and what is about to fall short and where hoarding is being practiced? It seems that no effort is being put to bridle the rising prices because it swells everyone’s wallet and part of illegal earnings is easily passed out from lower strata to higher one of the system. It seems that nobody is concerned with the plight of common people and perhaps our leaders have assumed that middle class family has become so much economically capable that they will bear it. The opposition is protesting against the price spiral, though they rule in many states but they are not doing any effort to bring it down. For the price hike, the states and the Centre are blaming each other. It is clear that nobody bothers to take on the corrupt system. Political parties are perhaps getting benefit from it that could easily fill their coffers.
Millions of rupees are being splurged on the developmental projects of rural areas every year, but their plight is not getting off. There is less likely that our leaders, sitting on high pedestal and claiming for being insulated from corruption, will give any direction to bureaucrats, which could weed out problems from the rural economy so that villages could be made free from the grip of government system. It could only happen when new methods and trends would be developed. If there is no proper development in rural areas, it is unlikely to get free from the grip of soaring prices. The second term of UPA government is preparing to present its second budget. Now time will say whether Finance Minister will frame any system by which the condition of rural area and farm produces can be improved. Finance Minister is familiar with those pending schemes which could improve the situation, but right now it cannot be said that these schemes will get boost in the coming budget. This is the time not only for pushing the agenda on the floor rather the demands of private sector should be initiated and its participation be made obvious in the government sector. This could happen only when wide political will power can be incorporated.
(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on January 10, 2010 translated by the English Editorial)