Tuesday, June 29, 2010

UPA bites the price hike bullet and the Indian Taxpayer/Voter

On June 25, the UPA government increased the unit price of petrol (Rs.3.50+), diesel (Rs.2+), kerosene (Rs.3+) and cooking gas (Rs.35+ per cylinder).

The unit price of CNG and PNG have also been increased by up to 30%.

The food inflation rate is already above 16%.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee was conspicuous by her absence from the meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which decided on raising the fuel prices.

Mamata Banerjee claims that she and her party - the Trinamool Congress, are against the fuel price hike as it would hurt the already wounded 'Common Man'. On being asked why she did not attend the EGoM meeting, she replied that her party has a minority stake in the government, so her presence would not have made 'any difference' to the outcome.

One would assume that meetings are the forums where you voice your grievances and concerns. Her disassociation with the fuel price hike decision is seen as tokenism aimed at upcoming elections in West Bengal. It appears that when Mamata Benerjee claims that she is with the 'Common Man', she apparently means the Congress.

India's very own Marie Antoinette - Sharad Pawar, was however present at the meeting, and is believed to have given his blessings to the hike. Not much expected from a politician who said something to the effect - "If the price of sugar is rising, don't eat sugar. It's bad for your health anyway."

I think the UPA wants to drive home the point that it's not just sugar that's bad for our health, but a host of other things too - milk, rice, flour, vegetables, fruits etc etc.

Already suffering under the weight of high prices of everyday commodities, which has upset the budgets of many a middle/lower income households, the UPA feels that our misery hasn't reached nadir. Next in line is the deregulation of diesel!

Now everyone in the UPA government - from Pranab Mukherjee to Manmohan Singh, is talking about biting the bullet. However, when it comes to the salaries, benefits and perks of the politicians, it seems no one wants to come forward and take the bullet. The bullet it seems is only meant for you and me.

It is learnt that the government will pass a bill in the monsoon session to raise five-folds the salaries, benefits and perks of MPs. For the dereliction of their duties, the MPs' salaries will be increased to the tune of Rs 80,000+. In addition to other benefits (monetary, cash, kind, !!!FREE FUEL!!!), MPs will now get 35+ free flights to ensure that they remain in touch with their 'electorate' (Anyone hear the sound of Air India's back breaking - again!).

Electorate here seems to be a euphemism for the MPs loved ones, family and friends, as we all know Politicians never see our faces again, till the next election.

These are luxuries which the common man can only dream of... or maybe hope to enjoy after long years of hard and back breaking work. Our politicians can get these with a simple voice vote, come monsoon session of parliament. These are of course paid for by you and me - the Indian Taxpayer and Voter.

Conclusion: Whenever an A.Raja will make the government lose thousands of crores of rupees, the government will recover the money from the Taxpayers and Voters in the form of higher taxes and price hikes. Politicians will effectively shield themselves from the ill effects of inflation and higher prices by increasing their salaries and benefits manifolds.


  1. It seems Congress will do all this and get away with it. They have successfully created the impression that they are the natural rulers of India. The opposition and other parties like BJP, JD, and communists of all hues do not really offer a choice. Congress thrives on this Hobson's choice.

    To ensure a vibrant democracy the opposition should provide a viable alternative, quite capable of running the country much better than the Congress. Then we can usher in the true flowering of competitive democracy both inter-party as well as intra-party. Until then we have to put up with the banality of the current crop of leaders that offer no hope of a better lives.

    P.S.: you article is well written and organized - post deals with serious issue but in a light hearted way that makes it a pleasure to read.

    Murali Krishnan.

  2. Hey, thanks for your insights and views.

    I agree with you that the opposition needs to stay relevant... BJP and Leftists are fast losing space, while treating each other as political outcasts...

    As long as the opposition stays divided, Congress will continue to project itself as the only credible centrist option for the Indian Voter, while pulling the rug from under the feet of the BJP and the Leftists, plus the ragged bunch local parties they call alliance partners...