The above song is only for representation and not the theme of the post.
But this might be a time for us to celebrate the increase in the prices, for there is no other way to keep one cheerful against the spiralling inflation. I know it looks a bit stupid and foolish of me, believe me I’m not keen on acting like a moron for no reason. Unless we get over the shock of quadrupling prices, how else will we find a solution? So let us begin now, please play the above song and shake a leg (own) or two… and sing while I wait. Sakhi Saiyyaann… waah waah!
Now if you are done, let us concentrate on three major commodities which have been contributing to the fodder (discussions against inflation). And we will not behave like leaders of opposition demanding the resignation from the PM. We will analyse and find out practical workable means to reduce prices, or at least consumptions. Ready?
1) Motor Fuel (Petrol, Diesel): Motor fuel is said to have contributed the highest to the rising inflation. In Mumbai, petrol prices have gone up by nearly 33%, or INR 18 in last 2 years, INR 13 of which has increased in last 1 year and INR 6 in last couple of weeks alone. The frequent rise is blamed on the unstable crude oil prices in the global markets. This data gives us a good picture of how the per barrel prices have gone up in the US domestic market. The prices have tripled in last 10 years alone. No wonder why prices in India have also increased by similar margins. However the way we are charged for the same litre of petrol is idiotic. 40% of the prices we pay while buying petrol goes to the government in the form or various taxes such as VAT, excise, customs plus local octroi etc. That is where the problem lies. If you compare the prices of petrol world over (data available here), prices in some or most of the developed countries are either marginally higher or marginally lower than the prices in India. This is despite their purchase power parity being much more than us. If they are not taxed heavily, why are we?
Probably the first thing we can do to avoid this is to consume much less fuel. A better solution can be to use cars, bikes with better mileage or use public transport as much as possible. The taxation is not in our hands. So if we can evade them, we can avoid the commodities which are heavily taxed.
2) Onion: If there is a commodity quite literally making us cry, it is the Onion. 5 years ago, I remember buying an onion at less than INR 10 a kg. Today the price has gone up by 7 times. Luckily we had bought 5 kg onions at about 23 about two months ago. That was when the onions started going up. Frankly speaking, Onion is hardly a vegetable that should get all this importance. But then it is also a vegetable that finds an irreplaceable place in the Indian menu. And so some one has decided to take advantage of it. I can blame Sharad Pawar & Congress fair and square for this. Onions are a kind of vegetable can be produced by poorest of poor farmers. But none of the policies by the government to protect their rights ever get implemented. As a result, the vegetables are bought at a dirt rate and sold with a high margin. That is still fine if I’m spending as much as my income permits. What is bad is the way they have been exporting all the necessities, thereby creating temporary shortage.
The best way is to oppose any such measure by the traders, try buying from the sellers themselves. I know a few guys who, fed up of middle men, themselves went to the villages, encouraged the small farmers to join them and started selling their farm fresh vegetables in their cars at a much discounted price. I have bought from such people and I know how good the model can be to prevent increasing prices. All it needs is a commitment.
3) The Essentials: Such as milk, lentils, rice, pulses etc. I remember a time in 2007 when I bought Surti Kolam rice for just 22 per kg! Today, the same rice price has gone up to almost 50 per kg in Mumbai. The reason is again no different than that for the onions. Even the prices of Milk have gone up in a similar manner. I tried to find out why such differential pricing when the cost of production hasn’t gone up all that much. I realised that even the sellers who are willing to give discounts are bound by the union prices, that is the prices the market unions fix. So a local vegetable seller buys his goods from the APMC market in Vashi at a certain price and is immediately told the selling price. It is now up to the seller to decide his margin. Though knowing that the price of the good, say onion, when bought was about INR 10 a kg, he has no option but to sell it at INR 65 because he bought it at upwards of 50, all because of a union. And I have not made this up, it is a fact. The solution already exists in point number2.
Sigh! It took me lot of time to write this post. And after glancing it once, I’m feeling like a child who was cheated of his kite and manja. We talk about the growing inflation, growing economy and I think they run hand in hand. While the facilities available with me have increased, I feel my life is no different than a middle class of 1950s or 60s. Sad,but true :-)