Rising prices: How long will the country suffer?
Vijay Darda :You will remember the election campaign in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party had raised a hue and cry over inflation. The discussion everywhere was focussed on the single point that the common man was reeling under the impact of rising prices of essential commodities. There were allegations that despite being an economist, Dr Manmohan Singh could not control inflation. Every leader of the opposition was shouting at the top of his or her voice that the Congress government did not care for the common man and allowed inflation go uncontrolled. There were other election issues too but it was the issue of inflation that dominated the electoral discourse.
The result was that even the common man believed that inflation would be controlled only when the Bharatiya Janata Party government came to power at the centre. With this hope, people voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party. Since then, they are just waiting for inflation to be brought under control. The government continues to release some data regarding inflation. These figures are so complex that they can only be understood by the economists. The common man does not understand them. He only sees what the cost of pulses per kg was last month and how much it costs this month. He only sees what the prices of vegetables were last week and what they are this week in the market.
Even if the government tries to show by releasing data that inflation has come down, the reality is that inflation is on the rise. If some part is seen directly, some other part hits us indirectly. For example, you can look at the prices of diesel and petrol. When the price of petrol increases, it directly affects the home budget. If diesel price increases, its impact ranges from grains to greens, and the prices of everything needed for the household increases because the freight increases.
Since the prices at the international market were rising rapidly during Manmohan Singh’s regime, the price of petroleum products was booming in India too. At that time, crude oil prices in the international market reached $105 a barrel. The government could not do anything even if it wanted to. Conversely, when the BJP government came to power at the centre, crude oil prices started to fall rapidly in the international market. At one time, it drastically came down to $48.50 a barrel. Had the BJP government wanted, the prices of petrol and diesel could have been brought down in the country too, but the government earned a lot of money by levying surcharges and taxes and thus increased revenue. There was no attempt to provide relief to the people.
When prices began to rise again in the international market, the government imposed this decision in such a shrewd way that now prices are fluctuating every day. Now, the fuel price increases by 25 paise some day or 12 paise the other. In this way, the prices continue to rise and they do not attract the attention of the common man. Today, the condition is such that the price of petrol in various cities of Maharashtra has gone up to Rs. 80 per litre and the price of diesel has gone up to Rs. 65 per litre. Due to this, inflation is also increasing rapidly.
I have always been demanding that if all things can be included in the GST, why are petrol and diesel not being included? The government has maintained silence on this issue because if petrol and diesel are included in the GST, they will be taxed at a maximum of 28 per cent, whereas now we have to pay more than 100 per cent by combining all kinds of tax and cess.
It may sound harsh but it is a reality that the government is not making any effort to reduce inflation. Rather, no minister or representative of the government wants to speak on this very serious issue. In order to divert the attention of the people and not make them mindful of the inflation, such issues are being raised or popped up that the common man remains embroiled in them. Even our media is not speaking or commenting much on the issue of inflation. So many sensational cases keep cropping up everyday that nobody pays any attention towards inflation. The person who suffers most from the impact of inflation has such a weak voice that it does not reach the corridors of power. Even the media, which itself is fast becoming a victim of inflation, is silent about it. The price of newsprint has increased by more than 30 per cent. Printing ink has become costly and the economic condition of the print media has worsened. It is surprising that neither the print media nor the electronic media is raising its voice over this.
Just think about that lower middle class person or the poor person whose monthly income is Rs. 10,000 or Rs. 15,000. Can his or her family think of something other than keeping the kitchen fire burning? Can he eat pulses and vegetables at the same time? The production of pulses increased by 38 lakh tonnes last year. Yet, why is it so costly? Can a common man think of drinking milk today? Can he bear the expense of his medical treatment properly? Not at all, and the number of such people is in crores. These people also voted for the BJP to help it capture power at the centre. Should the government not think about these people? It should but no one actually does. The wait for the promised ‘achhe din’ is becoming increasingly long. We are ready to wait long but how can we remain hungry today for a happy tomorrow! It is high time the government started thinking! The common man of this country is very upset! And the anger is growing deep within!
Before I conclude
Congratulations Avani! We felt very proud when you achieved the distinction of being India’s first woman fighter pilot to complete a solo flight in a MiG 21 Bison fighter jet! Your inspiration was astronaut Kalpana Chawla and you have become an inspiration to millions of girls who hail from small towns as you do. Avani, India has great expectations from you!
India can’t shut its eyes on Maldives
If China is able to get the Maldives, which has been our friend, to sit in its lap, the situation can really turn dangerous for us!
Vijay Darda : The Maldives is currently undergoing a crisis. President Abdulla Yameen has imposed emergency and the judges of the Supreme Court have been arrested. These judges had ruled that the lawsuit against former president Mohamed Nasheed was unconstitutional. In the Maldives politics, Nasheed is the person who paved the path for democracy in the country. These days, he is in exile and after the latest developments, he has requested India to intervene for restoration of democracy in the Maldives. Notably, the Maldives is a democratic country but its constitution is flawed. The judiciary is weak too. It is here that the genesis of the problem lies.
If you look at the history, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled the Maldives for 30 years. He was always close to India and openly shared friendship too. India also responded with friendship. In 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil militant group People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam had almost captured the Maldives with the help of local rebels, and Gayoom had to go into hiding to save himself. He sought help from America, Britain, India, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India then. He took a prompt decision. Within a few hours, Indian army landed in the Maldives and saved Gayoom as well as his government. The whole world saluted the bravery of the Indian army and the zeal of India.
Gayoom is a very good person. I got an opportunity to meet him and exchange views. As president of the South Asia Editors’ Forum, I went to the Maldives with a delegation. He hosted a banquet in our honour and continued to express his love for India during the conversation. As long as he was in power, India was closest to the Maldives. He did not allow China to come anywhere near him. But now he is not in power!
So the question being raised now is why the government of India is not taking any step after the latest developments? Three days back, the US President Donald Trump spoke to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue. In fact, to understand the situation of the Maldives, we have to go back a little. When Gayoom was president, a journalist Mohamed Nasheed formed the Maldivian Democratic Party in 2003. He launched the movement and a new constitution was introduced in the Maldives in 2008. Subsequently, direct elections were held for the president’s post and Mohamed Nasheed himself won. Gayoom had to step down.
Nasheed was also close to India. But due to his advisors in Britain, he tried to allow the US and Britain in the Indian Ocean. This annoyed an influential class of the Maldives and his government was toppled in 2012. He too had sought India’s help then. But as he was more inclined towards the US and Britain, India did not intervene. The very next year in 2013, Nasheed received more number of votes in the first round of election, but the court declared that election invalid. In the second round, Abdulla Yameen, the step-brother of former president Gayoom, won and is still the president. He trapped Nasheed in a slew of lawsuits but the latter succeeded in leaving the country. To strengthen his grip on power, Yameen dismissed nearly a dozen MPs from their posts by levelling different allegations and slapping cases against them. The matter reached the apex court and the judges ruled in favour of MPs and former president Mohamed Nasheed. Now if these MPs are reinstated, the Yameen government can land into trouble and therefore, he imposed emergency in the country. He also put the judges in jail on the allegations of bribery. Not only that, two Indian journalists Mani Sharma and Aatish Raoji were also arrested.
Remarkably, Gayoom played a key role in bringing Yameen to power. But ignoring Gayoom’s stance, Yameen made friends with China. In spite of India’s opposition, he executed many agreements with China including Maritime Silk Route and is now allowing China to build hotels and resorts on several islands of the Maldives. In fact, tourism is the backbone of the Maldives’ economy. This country is blessed with incredible beauty. That is why China is keen to capture tourism here. It is also being stated that in the coming days, Yameen can also allow China to build a military naval base in the Maldives. China and Yameen are getting ready to do so. The worrisome aspect is the involvement of Pakistan in this crisis. Both India and America too are aware of this fact. That is why America wants India to intervene this time. As for China, it has taken a different stand altogether. It has said that the Maldivian crisis is that country’s internal matter. Neither the UN and nor India should interfere. By maintaining this, it has tried to signal that it will not tolerate any interference.
So what should India do? I feel that India should take some tough steps. It should impose harsh sanctions against the Maldives and ensure early elections to save democracy there. For, India can not shut its eyes on the Maldives because this part of the Indian Ocean is our area of influence. This is our main sea route. The presence of enemies like China and Pakistan will be fatal for us. China is trying to encompass us on every side. In such a situation, we have to show some nerve. It is not proper to allow the Maldives to sit in China’s lap.
Before I conclude
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has suggested that voting should be made compulsory. Basically, this idea is good but the question is how will voting be made compulsory? What will you do if a farmer does not go to cast his vote? Will he be denied official benefits? If a labourer does not vote, will he not be given employment under government schemes? What if an industrialist fails to vote? There is no answer to these questions. In fact, we will have to create such an awareness and understanding that every citizen of the country should feel inspired to vote.