Home arrow Archives arrow Economic Highlights arrow Economic Highlights 2015 arrow Dal Prices: GOVT MISSES PEOPLE’S PULSE, By Shivaji Sarkar, 23 Oct, 2015
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Dal Prices: GOVT MISSES PEOPLE’S PULSE, By Shivaji Sarkar, 23 Oct, 2015 Print E-mail

Economic Highlight

New Delhi, 23 October 2015

Dal Prices


By Shivaji Sarkar


Capitalism is at its zenith in a country which has a statute abiding by socialism. So the poor man’s dal (pulses) is demanding a price – Rs 200-odd a kg, which millions of Indians can ill afford. The bottom line being the “promises” made by politicians in Bihar to bring down the price to Rs 100, which would be at least Rs 20 more than the price prevailing about two months back at around Rs 80.


Who gains? The capitalist dalwalla! Instead of bringing down the prices to around Rs 30-40, about two years ago, politicians are willing to give the predatory sellers a minimum bonus of Rs 20 a kg. Unfortunately, the political dispensation is not trying to protect the interests of the poor man, the garib, who has been losing all battles. His votes are going waste! Many aver as the governments at all places are trying to protect the cartels, hoarders and all those who fleece him. The politicians, who promise to halve the prevailing dal price, forget that it is the same arhar or tur dal that the farmers have sold for less than Rs 40 a kg.


Similarly, they have not been successful in checking onion prices. It sells at Rs 60 to 80 a kg. All other vegetables are beyond affordable levels. So are rice and wheat. Even other commodities like soap and detergent are selling at prices three to four times their manufacturing cost.


Political players and cartelized traders may have every reason to be gleeful and even ignore the vital issue, which is eating into the core of democracy. They have got nothing to lose. Whether prices rise or fall, their pockets get heavier notwithstanding more stringent black money laws now.


The blame game may suit poll campaigners of all parties but it is eroding credibility of the governments. While Nitish may take a pot shot at Modi’s “Na Khaunga, na khane doonga” remark by making a reference to dal, the latter is being accused of not utilising the special Central fund for price stabilisation to help the consumers. In any case, people have started realizing they are ek hi thali ke chatte batte hai- “birds of the same feather.” This is dangerous. It signals frustration and is shaking their faith in the democratic functioning.


Further, it is giving rise to a feeling that the politician is no more the master of governance. So who is it then? A popular refrain is that the bureaucracy is ruling the roost. Some even point out a nexus between the officialdom and fleecing traders. To support their argument, the common man says, that whichever government it may be, nobody has the courage to touch the bureaucracy. Despite change of many governments across the country no dispensation dislodges the officials from their portals. The nexus of officials and business carries on and even grows. And it is the people who continue suffering.


Their argument may have some logic. This country has seen the government body NAFED getting wired in the spiraling of onion and potato prices many times. It has also seen how carefully Amul changed the packing mode of edible oil to only a litre to add to the profits of oil traders by over ten per cent. And, the so-called political bosses, who happen to be chairmen of such organizations, neither tried to prevent these machinations nor even uttered a word in protest.


Strangely enough UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav does not know that he can order raids. Instead, he wants the Prime Minister to suggest a formula. The question to be asked is whether there is any formula to take him out of his apathy – or can we say sheer complicity?


Luckily, all are not like him and it isn’t that some States have not realized it and started taking action. At least Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and a few other States have conducted 3000 raids to “unearth” 56000 tonnes of hoarded pulses. Obviously, there is bureaucratic complicity. Every police station knows about such activities. However, they do not act, perhaps for a price. Else a scam of such an all-India magnitude can never take place.


Additionally, there is the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and State local intelligence units, whose job is to monitor such anti-people activities. If they have not reported such hoardings, then they-- from topmost to the lowest employee-- must be severely pulled up. In case, they had reported it and action at other levels was not initiated, all such officials need to be summarily sacked for effective governance as also to restore faith of the people in the system.


Interestingly, in all such cases of rise in prices, some strange alibi is often extended by the concerned government departments. It is said that there is a gap in production and demand. The demand for pulses is at around 21 million tonnes and production at 17.38 million tonnes. The supposed shortage is being met through 5000 million tonne imports. That’s good. But why despite such imports prices do not remain in check? Instances of the States which acted are enough to suggest that the traders have cartelized and indulged in hoardings all across the country.


It may be they are also motivated by certain political dispensation to embarrass the government.

The other reason is the Indian large businesses consider themselves above the law. Is it so because they can buy whosoever they want? What is the explanation that those at the helm of affairs are unable to check the phenomenon? These are difficult questions but beg an answer.


It so happens that the first NDA government of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had realized the misdemeanor of the businesses. Vajpayee had set up an agriculture monitoring body. It used to regularly keep a watch on production of different farm commodities and plan accordingly. It had a sanguine effect. Prices during his six years of rule remained stable and inflation almost unknown. The subsequent UPA government dismantled it and the country is in throes of severe price spiral since then.


Maintaining prices and not just the price index, at affordable levels has to be the prime concern of any government. Agriculture has to be in direct focus of governance. Proper production, uninterrupted supply chain - may be a PDS, check on hoarding and other malpractices can make commodities affordable. Farm prices are the key to the people’s purchasing power. The growth the country is looking for can be ensured through this measure.


However, if all this is ignored or left to “market forces”, as the UPA did, it would lead to the collapse of the economy and perhaps much more. There is no shortage of any commodity. It is mismanagement that is causing the turmoil. Supporters of capitalism and socialism may choose to interpret their aim as just one—to keep the people happy and ensure the country prospers through good governance. India can’t claim either. ----INFA 


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT