THERE is a queer mix. The prices of onion and airfare are rising to abnormal levels simultaneously.
The announcement at the Congress plenary session that the party removes the corrupt does not get with the facts.
The rising onion prices to an unprecedented level, smells of another scam. In mid November, it was available for Rs 14 a kg. In a month it touched Rs 80 in many places. The blame put on heavy rains does not match the reality. The symptoms suggest hoarding, manipulation of prices and a severe failure – is that deliberate? – on the part of the agriculture ministry.
Is the ministry so naive as not to know of the crop failure and impending shortage? It is difficult to believe particularly as it is being headed a by a minister who hails from the region, which produces the highest quantity of onion.
Similarly the airfares have risen beyond the affordable level of a common man, who was promised that a competition among multiple private players would bring flying within their limit.
Even the airports have been privatised to fleece the passengers. At almost all privatised airports people are made to pay a hefty entry fee as well. The airports were given to the private sector on the clear instructions that they would not levy such a fee. Definitely the ministry has the right to forget because it benefits many who are said to be close to the powers that be.
Agriculture ministry has been in the thick and thin of allegations and controversies for the last over a year. Hoardings and manipulations have become part of the phenomenal rise of foodgrain prices. Despite the recent claim that price index was coming down, foodgrain prices are creating records of their own. The ministry is seemingly least bothered of it.
The irony is that with the rising foodgrain prices, more farmers in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are committing suicide. This includes the debt-ridden son-in-law of the celebrated Kalavati, who was used for a publicity stunt. Obviously the benefit of rising prices is not going to the farmers or the cause of agriculture.
If the functioning of the ministry is efficient, it is surprising that it did not act weeks before to put a check on exports of onion. Even after the announcement, the stock that has reached the ports would not return to the market. The shipments would sail away. This is being supplemented by import of poor quality onions from Pakistan.
Again the benefit of high onion prices is not going to the growers. Both the grower and consumer are being fleeced. If the common man knows who the culprits are, it is difficult to believe that those in government do not know of it.
They may pretend to do so because the Opposition has not been able to mount the kind of pressure either in the case of agriculture or civil aviation ministry, it had done in the case of telecommunication minister A Raja, involved in the 2G scam.
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) that had emerged as the shining example for ensuring growth has gone into a morass. Nobody has tried to take the minister in-charge to task.
In the case of Commonwealth Games loot too the man responsible was not removed from the position. He was for record’s sake was only moved away from a party position.
It is also difficult to comprehend why even after a remark of the Supreme Court the newly-appointed Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), against whom some enquiry is on, is continuing in his position.
No one was taken to task for the failure of ill-designed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor in Delhi. It is taking a heavy toll of human lives but nobody ever thought of removing the person, who had approved it. Has its construction also been a money spinner?
The petroleum ministry, which suddenly decontrolled petrol prices and allowed public sector oil companies to increase prices now and then despite their phenomenal profits, have not been taken to task as yet. The high profit margins of petro companies do not justify rise of Rs 5 per litre within the last over two months.
There are too many such issues. It needs a detailed probe. The prime minister’s offer to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has a limited mandate, would not answer the myriad issues afflicting the nation.
The nation needs a thorough and detailed probe into each of these issues. They look unconnected. But they are closely linked. Such a probe has to be multi-dimensional. The problems are criminal, financial and above all political. The prime minister with supposedly a clean image should himself have called for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe not only to keep his image intact but also to help cleanse the body polity of the nation.