THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS | ISSUE 12 | 16 SEPTEMBER 2011
By Abu Arsh
Sakhi Saiyan to khube kamat hai
mehangai dayan khaye jaat hai
har mahina uchhle petrol
deisal ka uchhla hai role
Sakkar bhai ke ka bol
Roosa baat maati dhaan hamari jaan hai
Mehngai dayan khayat jaat hai.......
This quirky song from off-beat movie 'Peepli Live' is a funny satirical folk song on rising prices reflecting state of affairs in most of our day to day life. State-run oil companies last week raised the price of petrol by Rs 3.14 per litre, the third substantial increase since January 2011, a move which is expected to stoke inflation and upset household budgets. As per BJP, the Congress-led government has increased petrol prices ten times in just a year. The opposition alleged that UPA-II, under economist Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has increased the price of petrol by a total of Rs 25 since it took office. According to media reports - consumers feel the increase was unjustified and imposed a fresh burden. It is becoming unbearable and how can the common man face such sharp increase. It will add to already high expenses. A day after a Rs 3 a litre rise in the price of petrol, the UPA government was forced by its allies to postpone 16.09.2011 scheduled meeting to discuss capping the sale of subsidised cooking gas (LPG) cylinders. The petroleum ministry has suggested a phased capping of subsidised LPG cylinders, while putting in a mechanism for direct transfer of subsidy to the intended beneficiaries. Under this, consumers will have to buy cylinders above the proposed annual quota of four to six at the market price
Who are these consumers affected by the 'unjustified' petrol price hike? Who is this 'common man'?
The middle class does not like to pay more for petrol, much as it does not, inexplicably, like to pay more for onions and potatoes. It's not the poor - they cannot afford the basic necessities. It's not the rich - no price rise will affect them. By elimination, it's those caught in between - the middle class. According to an NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research) study, which uses 'household income' as the criterion, a family with an annual income between Rs 3.4 lakh to Rs 17 lakh (at 2009-10 price levels) falls in the middle class category. The study says, "The middle class that represents only 13.1% of India's population currently owns 49% total number of cars in India, 21% of TVs, 53.2% of computers, 52.9% of ACs, 37.8% of microwaves and 45.7% of credit cards." And it can't stomach a Rs 3 per litre petrol price hike?
Most of us islanders down here are not fortunate enough to come close to the above category of middle class nor are we anywhere near to qualify as Below Poverty Line. Guys riding a 4 stroke bike end up paying the same for a litre of petrol as do the billionaire who moves in a chauffer driven limousine. We end up paying more taxes as commodity tax and the affluent savours the sop. Our condition is such that government servant gets various facilities like hikes in DA and a million other facilities for passing their time around at office and the Aam admi is snatched of his basic right to survive. His incomes have not increased over the years but prices have shot up many fold. The islands do have a better overall price rate for fuel but abnormally very high rates for every other essential commodity and very high cost of living compared to anywhere else in
The need of the hour is strengthening of public transport system at affordable rates for the common commuters. Increased agriculture activities are to be encouraged for growing of staples along with livestock and poultry. Creating improved employment opportunities for the youth and standardization of salaries in all sectors. Ever increasing number of people falling below the middle class category is increasing by the day, check on influx is necessary to optimize utilization of available resources in an ecologically fragile
Island economy. Administration on its part has to rally with the Union government that the Islands needs sustainable development on all fronts to absorb shocks of shortages and frequent price rise for essential commodities in whole of India.