Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do we have a Choice?

Do we give up because life is unaffordable now?

Mukesh and Reena stay at the dairy near the Vasant Kunj block B-11. For their living they iron clothes. In addition Mukesh cleans the cars early morning. They have two children, a daughter and a son and an ailing mother to look after.

I had a chance to interact with Mukesh at length and figured out his journey from village to Delhi. He has taken two rooms in the nearby dairy, for himself and his mother, paying Rs 3000/- pm as rent. He uses almost 3-4 kgs of coal for his ironing. The cost of coal these days is Rs 40/kg. He charges Rs 3 per cloth from the households and clothes like saris and bed sheets are charged at Rs 7 and Rs 10 respectively. Reena and Mukesh got their daughter admission in a renowned south delhi school, DPS, Vasant Kunj. They got through under the category of economically weaker section. They are not paying as much fees but the monetary pressure of teaching children in a good school is always there.

Having all of the above expenses and their limited means of earning, life for them is indeed tough as it is for everyone. However they do not crib, Mukesh says, “jiske pass hai wo dabayega, jisko chaihiye wo dabega” very profound statement. Mukesh and Reena are just examples. There are several such couples who have come from their villages and are surviving in the city. Each of these people has done their cost analysis. On the basis of their expenses, they charge for their services, whether it is cleaning cars, doing domestic work, ironing clothes or whatever. Whether onions come at Rs 65/kg or Rs 15/kg they have found a way to survive and so is the case for the other classes of society. The local vegetable vendor tells me that he gets up at 1 am to get his stock from the “Azadpur Mandi” and therefore whatever price he gets there he hikes it up by at least Rs 5/kg and sometimes more sells it. Though it pinches my pocket but can I blame him for his strategy? The spirit is to survive; no one can just give up because life is unaffordable.

So when Mr. Montek Singh Alhuwalia says that the rising prices show economic growth and indicate people’s buying power, I wish to ask him if he really thinks it is true. Does the common man or the not so common man have a choice? On the pretext of inflation, everyone is hiking prices and those with power are negotiating prices. It’s a war of wits, whose need is more, who will crack first.

We maybe a democracy, but it almost seems like a monarchy. Billions of rupees have been siphoned away by the ministers, corporate, bureaucrats etc on account of their corrupt deeds. Neither have the guilty been punished nor has the money been recovered. The food prices have been rising, so have the petrol prices and the government say it really cannot do much to control inflation. Mr. Prime Minister, was the one to bail the country out when the worst economic crisis had gripped us and yet he has no solutions now. I am totally amazed at the helplessness displayed by the government. Even in a country like the US, the food prices are subsidized.

I was shocked and angry and still am when I read a few days back that Rahul Gandhi thinks it’s the coalition alliance which is holding the govt back from being able to control prices, and Mr Ahluwalia says that rising prices show prosperity. These are our leaders and our policy makers and who are so far away from the ground reality.

So Mr. Ahluwalia, please check your data again, maybe you can walk to your own kitchen and find out the difference. How much was being spent on cooking a meal for you earlier and how much is being spent now. Your salary is constant (I assume) but you are in a league where you may not feel the pinch at all. Maybe you could ask your cook if he thinks that the rising prices indicate prosperity.

© Shubhra Chaturvedi, January 20, 2011

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