The UPA-government solemnly promised to remove problems of common people while beginning its second term, but the surging prices, which started as it came into power, failed to stop. After global recession in 2008, Indian economy has been up in comparison to other countries, but the government not only failed to control rising prices, rather also came under the grip of paradoxes. Where some of the policy makers of the government presume the price rise because of high income of common people and consequently growing their demands, while the others dub it man-made by hoarding, ignoring of agriculture production and poor supply of food items. The responsibility of controlling prices does not come on the Centre alone, but it is also not fair to end its duty simply suggesting to states for bringing down prices. Unfortunately, the Central government did the same again.

The irony is that the strategists of the government first held two-day meeting to seek way for checking surging prices and when they failed to concord, they ended their job by suggesting states to scrap Mandi tax and octorai on farm produces. It seems that the Central government is not able to understand the reason of price spike of food stuff due to the gap between supply and demand along with involvement of hoarders also. The price rise of general consumer items in the wake of growing GDP is natural, because a fast growth causes inflation but the government cannot avoid that price spiral of food items have made people cry. A small dearness could be tolerated, but when prices of food items go high by 30-40 percent and sometimes by 100 percent, it is not only intolerable but also exposes failure of the government. It is understood that farmers have got benefit from the increased MSP of foodgrains for two years, but it did not happen with fruit-veggies. It appears that the government machinery does not have any option to control the prices of fruit-veggies. In this context this option is precise that in the peripheries of big cities the farming of vegetables should be developed, but it is scripted only in paper and nobody knows if it would ever be implemented. Union Agriculture Ministry took note of this option when the Tamilnadu government sent them a proposal in this regard. It means that the ministry was not doing anything on its own to remove the deficit of fruit-veggies.

The government is one hand stating that such a high food inflation could not be accepted, but it is not doing any tangible step to bring it down. The government is not only in dilemma to check prices, but it is trying hard to seek temporary formula. There is no sense of constituting a group under the leadership of chief economic adviser to keep a tab on the price hike. Such kind of group has also been formed earlier. When the prices go unbridled, the decision of forming of such group indicates its failure. Doesn’t the government have an idea of major part of country’s population struggling for two square meals? The government should know that price rise is affecting the whole nation, but it realizes when media makes hue and cry about it. However, it is not able to take a concrete step. The government needs to know that the soaring prices will only be controlled when there is a comprehensive improvement in the agriculture sector. For this matter of improvement, help from the states is prerequisite, but the problem is that the Central government has a limited expectation of support from states. Until the Centre and states work together to ameliorate the farm sector, the crisis of food produces will remain the same.

India’s population has crossed billions and still many a person is devoid to own a house. However, in future Indian economy is expected to grow by 8-9 percent, there is a need to pay attention to the expansion of industries and urban development as well. As the fast economic growth will cause acquisition of more agricultural land, it is necessary for the farmers to increase farm produces by adopting scientific methods. There is a need to arrange better seeds and fertilizers as well as proper irrigation facilities for farmers.

The price spike has become a political challenge for the Central dispensation. In line with the opposition, the allied partners of the coalition government too are doing mud-slinging on each other in this regard. Recently when Rahul Gandhi put blame on the coalition politics for the price rise, NCP, an alliance, categorically objected it. This matter subsided, but Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan, running the coalition government with NCP in the state, also endorsed that the coalition politics is a hurdle in taking right decision. This at least proves that the Congress has problem with its allies. It is now clear that the government holds Agriculture and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sharad Pawar responsible for the surging prices. However, Prime Minister and Finance Minister as well as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission gave assurances to check the prices soon, but they fell flat.

This year will witness polls in the five states and if the prices are not bridled, the Congress is bound to face problems. It is necessary for the Congress that it should check the rising prices, coordinating with its alliance and it should also overcome bottleneck in improving the agriculture sector on priority basis. If Sharad Pawar is a hurdle, the government will have to negotiate it. Sharad Pawar has been looking after Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies for the last seven years and still if the problem is persisting in the production of agriculture produces and supply of foodgrains, he is directly responsible for it. Sometime back Sharad Pawar was willing to relinquish one of them, but now it seems he wants to hold the both, Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Civil Supplies. Whatever may be circumstance, the Prime Minister has no other option but to take hard decision in the context of agriculture as well as food and civil supplies portfolio. It has to be seen if the Prime Minister gives responsibility of Agriculture Ministry to some other person in his probable Cabinet reshuffle?

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on January 16, 2010 translated by the English Editorial)