Onion at Rs 15-20 sounds a fairy tale, Rs 60-80 is new normal
Onion at Rs 60-80 and tomato at Rs 70-80 and buying most of the vegetables not in kilos or half kilos but in quarter of a kilo is the “new normal”, the common man must get willy-nilly used to.
The common man, more precisely common woman, must also get used to the promises every now and then by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit or Union Food Minister KV Thomas or still the veteran politician and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar – that a sharp correction in onion prices is a matter of days. The supply intervention is being done effectively, at least Thomas and Dikshit would say.
Yes, before Deepavali for a couple of days, onion prices did correct from Rs 100-90 to Rs 60-70. That is about 30 per cent fall. Should the common woman not gives habashi to the Delhi Government and the Centre? After all, 30 per cent drop in prices is no mean achievement! Who says, prices are going up? Are they not coming down? See , how an effective Sheila Dikshit has reined in onion prices–what if for a few days, from Rs 100 a kilo to Rs 60-70 a kilo .
Does someone remember that onion used to sell at Rs 15-20 a kilo and at times two and half kgs for Rs 20? Or, does it sound like a fairy tale?
Leaving aside too many questions from the Government, the fact of the matter is that the UPA Government has completely given up , knowing fully well that there are too many vested interests entrenched, about which it can do precious little. So, be it Communication Minister Kapil Sibal, who , now and then , tries shooting troubles for the scam-ridden government here and there or Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who is more at ease reeling out the macro-economic data like current account deficit, fiscal deficit, FCNR Swap and other such stuff, common-woman cannot relate to.
In sofar as the fruits and vegetables are concerned, it is a primary responsibility of the State governments, he argues. One wonders, what is the role of the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry, which can neither manage food production and distribution nor protect consumers.
The UPA makes tall claims about generating robust economic growth of eight per cent plus for most of the years, it has been in office excepting the last financial year and the year running now i.e., 2013-14. Nobody can deny the data, sure. Inflation at the retail level has been at 10 per cent for the last three years with no respite in sight either.
What has been the tangible results for the average household even from growth? Have they got more employment?
At least in cities, families after families, one finds this phenomenon among the middle class that those above 45-50 are the most vulnerable , particularly in the private sector, of being asked to leave without the so-called pink slips. They are , in fact, asked to leave without any slip. It is not easy to acquire fresh skill sets at that age and the kind of stigma that is attached to after being left redundant.
On the other hand, the young educated youth, especially those from the general category, is frustrated about not getting jobs, despite spending lakhs on higher education, which has been made brazenly commercial.
The small businesses – shops, factories, wholesale trading, are all under pressure. China is beating them hollow by dumping. Illustratively, most of idols of Lakshmi and Ganesha sold during Deepavali along with lightenings came from the factories of Chinese industrial towns which saw huge opportunities in 100 crore people celebrating festival of light and spending small or big at the cost of Indian businesses.
The economic model, chosen and followed by the UPA Government has given us the collaterals of new normal inflation at the retail level, which in turn, is now choking the growth and in turn employment.
After all, as they say, an average Indian has patience and suffers in silence, but it would be a mistake to think so any more. The signs of anger are there – but it is rather too late in the day to read the public anger because what could be done in a matter of few months ahead of elections, after all? Even if some results are visible before elections, there is a question mark on the credibility of the establishment.
Though it is fashionable to characterise USA, as a materialistic nation, it would be interesting to note that USA spends around 2 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on charity. That amounts to a whopping 300 billion dollars. Indian charity budget is barely 0.1 per cent of its GDP.
Charity is not that prevalent in India. There are few exceptions to this rule. Tata group is certainly one; Azim Premji has been a beacon of light, and has pledged 2.3 billion dollars to charity.
Indeed when Bill Gates and Warren Buffet had come to India recently in 2011, they met with less than enthusiastic welcome and their charity initiative received more brickbats than bouquets.
The lack of Indian charity is slightly intriguing. It is not as if Indian culture does not promote charity. Indeed Karna, the hero of Mahabharata is regarded as Danshoor Karna, who donated his Kavach and Kundal.
But let us not let ourselves get lost in past. Let us talk about the present. An Indian charity level at 0.1 per cent of GDP is rather disappointing. Charity promotes social activity and that can improve quality of governance apart from directly impacting people’s welfare.
India can and should aim at 1 per cent of GDP as charity level, even if it cannot match America’s 2 per cent. That at present level of GDP and present dollar conversion rates, could amount to close to rupees one lakh crore per annum.
Isn’t that over ambitious. Not entirely. The richest 100 Indians have a net worth of close to one trillion dollars. Even if they donate one per cent of their wealth every year, that itself will give a charity level of Rs 60,000 crore.
Charity can come from the middle class too. Supposing every mobile phone owner – and there are 70 crore of them – donates one rupee to charity every month, that itself would amount to Rs. 1,000 crore per year. Say they donate Rs 10 to charity per month, that would amount to Rs 10,000 crore per year. Say they donate one rupee every day, on an average, that would amount to Rs 30,000 crore.
Charity could also come from the rich who are not so very rich. They may not be the richest 100 in India, they could be the richest 1,000 or richest 10,000 or even richest million. Charity levels could easily reach Rs 100,000 crore a year.
The recent Corporate Social Responsibility Act is a welcome step that makes it mandatory for corporate with profits above a certain level to contribute to Corporate Social Responsibility at 1 per cent of profits.
There could be other initiatives. But charity levels can and must increase. The present charity level in India at 0.1 per cent of GDP is just not enough. There must be action, both at governmental and non governmental levels to increase charity to 1 per cent of GDP.
A one lakh crore charity budget per annum is not merely a matter of rhetoric or polemic, but immensely achievable and achieve worthy.
And that could change India in million ways. Just Rs 1,000 crore per annum spent over 10 years could entirely revolutionise sanitation in both rural and urban India. Similarly Rs 1,000 crore per annum could revolutionise treatment of disabled.
Just imagine 100 such major changes happening in India. They say a nation gets a government it deserves. Indians are wont to criticising their government. Well, the Government is made and certainly elected by average Indians. If average Indians demonstrate such apathy towards social issues as can be evidenced in the charity levels, it is small wonder that Government does not live up to our expectations.
Improving Indian charity levels is one sure way to improve governance and quality of life in India.