The Central government's decision to make a steep hike in cooking gas price, which came close on the heels of the Delhi assembly election result, can be seen only as a vindictive action against the people. Despite trying all ploys of hate campaign in the electoral battle field, the BJP was handed a clear defeat at the face of Arvind Kejriwal's track record of welfare measures.
No wonder then that the BJP and the central government imposed such a punishment on the people. For, even on earlier occasions such measures had come from the Modi government in response to election results. This time cooking gas price has been increased by Rs 144.50 per cylinder in one go. Such a hike has been made for the first time since the increase by Rs 220 per cylinder six years ago. Even otherwise, cooking gas price has been increased steadily: over the last six months alone it has gone up by Rs 284. Undoubtedly this is a blow on the population already reeling under acute financial crisis.
The government used to justify such hikes citing rise in international prices. This time was no exception. Although the ministry's argument that a hike became inevitable when gas price which stood at USD 448 per ton rose to USD 567 per ton is valid at the face of it, that still leaves the question why then the retail price here does not come down correspondingly when price falls in the international market. And there is no substance either in the government line that the rate of subsidy is also enhanced proportionate to the hike. The government policy of asking the consumer to first pay up the full price of a cylinder and then the government depositing the subsidy amount in the bank account is seriously flawd, as has already been highlighted. Further, the consumer is forced to pay GST on the basis of the full market price of the cylinder. All this takes away the benefit of subsidy. In other words, on the one hand the declared concessions are dnied and on the other a virtual fleecing takes place in the name of rise in international prices. All said and done, it is the people's fate to roast between the two. It is worth recalling that these pocket-squeezing acts happen under a regime that came to power with a promise to reduce the prices of oil and cooking gas.
The country at present is going through financial crisis of an unprecedented scale. The regime, which tended to rule it out as fiction, has now come to acknowledge it as fact, as reflected in the most recent budget and related pronouncements. The inflation of the country linked to the consumer price index, has risen to the highest in the last six years, with the concomitant hardship of price rise felt by the people. Figures also tell us that the national retail price index is at its highest for the last five and half years: food pries are higher by 13 per cent, and vegetabe prices alone are higher by 50 per cent. On the other hand, there is no matching income to neutralise this increase. Further, unemployment is at its historical peak, as the responsible ministry itself testifies. Industrial growth and revenue from manufacturing sector have come down. In this background, the rice hike of cooking oil is like oil poured into fire. All put together, there is a sure recipe for upsetting any famiy budget.
India is a country which had survived, when countries of the world including America faced a huge economic crisis ten years ago. Although the economic planning of Manmohan Singh had several hidden dangers, his steps did rescue India from the then global economic crisis, winning wide plaudits. Years thence now ours is one among those countries to be first hit when the world faces another economic recession. This will clearly illustrate the difference between the economic planning of the two governments. Put plainly, all the economic planning and projects implemented by the Modi government so far, have been a big failure. Even its exponents are now being forced to admit that the country is yet to recover from the damage caused by the economic 'reforms' ranging from note-ban to the GST roll out.
If even then the government is not ready to retract on its measures that lead the country to poverty, that has to be seen as the obstinacy of a regime bearing all signs of fascism. But then the most unfortunate thing is that even the our protests are limited to formal strikes and social media trolls. The 'Shaheen Bagh' model as seen in the citizenship protests, have to rise on these subjects too. It is a section of women - hitherto confined within the four walls of the kitchen - who came together to offer stout resistance when the country faced the threat of division. Now the kitchen itself is blazing in the heat of 'oil'. At such a juncture, the slogans that emanate from Shaheen Baghs have to spread out to these areas too.