December 16, 2009

Food Prices and Inflation - Govt. Twiddling Thumbs

There is no surprise that the inflation has been galloping week after week primarily on the back of the back-breaking and uncontrolled increases in the prices of food products almost on a daily basis. The extent of increase in the food prices and overall inflation has once again ceased to have any meaning although for the record, the food inflation has jumped to 17.47% and the overall inflation for November 2009 jumped to 4.78%.

With a Government that is only content with slogans of working for aam admi and expressing “concern” for the inflation, the people can hardly expect their cries of suffering to be heard.

Sharad Pawar

The man responsible for the total mess in Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, is unable to show what he has done to control the prices of food products. In fact, his policies have been largely responsible not only for the immediate problems but also for the manner in which the country is likely to become extremely vulnerable in the future as far as food security is concerned. Yet, in a show of utter indifference, he keeps inventing all kinds of reasons for the failure to curb the price rise.

The aam admi has to be content to see the Memo of Reasons coming from Pawar showing different reasons at different times based on expediency.

Much has already been written about Sharad Pawar in earlier articles (see here, here and here). Far more could be written, if only it would make a difference.

Pranab Mukerjee, explaining away the inflation, says in one breath in Rajya Sabha: “Prices are a major area of concern,” but they cannot be “merely solved by rhetoric. Corrective economic steps are to be taken,”. Who is engaged in 'rhetoric', pray? It is not the people, not the Opposition parties but the Government that should have acted long back but did not and has not. In the next breath he says: “inflation, especially of food items, has gone up because of the “cost push factor” following a high level of government support prices paid to farmers — be it sugarcane, wheat or rice. However, there would be no going back and "farmers will have to be encouraged." Such comments may well fit in the mouth of Pawar but not Pranab who is a more responsible person. Here is a Government implicitly trying to place the blame for the price rise on the doorstep of the farmers! It is playing a dangerous game by projecting that prices can be reduced only at the cost of the farmers, pitting them against the people-at-large! The people have not forgotten how the Government tried to help the farmers with the sugarcane ordinance that led to massive protests from the farmers, forcing the Government to backtrack hastily, less than a month ago. Such are the ways in which the Agriculture Minister makes policies which are meekly endorsed by the entire Government "in the interest of the farmers".

Pranab Mukerjee -confused or trying to confuse?

What do the two contradictory statements from Pranab Mukerjee mean for the aam admi? Do we have to believe that while on the one hand it is the Government which has to take corrective steps, yet at the same time, the prices are rising not because of the lack of corrective steps, but because the price increase takes place due to the farmer being paid more? Is it because of farmers being paid more that prices are increasing on a weekly nay, daily basis?

And then we have the Prime Minister, who seems to be unwilling to call a spade a spade and hold his Agriculture Minister responsible and make him to account.

Helpless, just like the Aam admi?

Unfortunately, the Opposition parties had so far failed to effectively pressurize the Government and whatever little they did so far to highlight the plight of the people does not seem to have made any difference.

The grim situation seems to have woken them up and finally they took the step of protesting in and outside the Parliament on 16th December 2009. Their protests inside the Parliament led to the Lok Sabha being adjourned for the day. It can only be hoped that the Opposition will continue to put the Government under enough pressure to shake up the sense of helplessness that the Government has become used to showing, whenever anything goes wrong, whether it is the safety and security of the country and the people, or the food security.

The Left Parties and SP

In the meanwhile, as Pawar continues fiddling with agriculture policies and cricket while the people's bellies are on fire, the Government appears to be twiddling thumbs hoping...hoping that eventually, the people will be forced to drastically reduce their food intake bringing down prices, and improving their health too!

सारे जहाँ से अच्छा, हिंदोस्ताँ हमारा