Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ordinary Indians, price rise & politicians' fears: The angry Indian

Nothing much an ordinary Indian expects from the government except that he keeps getting his' daal-roti/chawal' (meals) with perhaps an additional 'pyaaz' or chutney.

He is used to the fact that corruption is institutionalised and nothing moves in bureauracy without connections or greasing the palms and thus the common Indian, unaffected by software revolution, whose sole aim in life is to live peacefully without getting into the proverbial trouble of 'court/kachehri/police ka chakkar', expects hardly anything.

And he gets angry only when his 'daal-roti' gets costlier. The Newspapers and Channels may everyday boast that India grew by 9% or how many youths got package of 'several crores' in a foreign company in campus selection before their final exam at IIM, it is just hollow talk for him.

The guy who works at a bania's shop or a hotel may not at all get a Rs 100 hike from the existing Rs 2200 monthly salary despite the owners promise. His India doesn't shine, it doesn't grow up by 9%. He gets angry at the reports when business honchos and FinMin speaking in posh conference halls, claim that the economy is looking up.

When price of arhar(tuar)ki daal keeps climbing up every month and the onion gets unaffordable, the family of five has to cut down on something else to keep finances in order. Yes, the CEOs will surely get a raise (20-25%), the media bosses too will get it well. And naturally they can't see this under-current (they all missed it in last general elections).

Some politicians sense it. They dread this quiet anger of Indian masses for whom the hoopla over an Indian earning a crore in US or UK doesn't make much sense. [Howsoever angry an Indian may be he avoids hitting the streets for total revolution, he may get overawed by ever rising multi-storey structures and keep silent, but the contempt is felt when governments suddenly get toppled].

India is not just a country of engineers and MBAs, or for that matter middle-level executives and babus. It has Hundreds of Millions who earn it the hard way--haath ki mehnat (manual labour).

They are labourers, the farmers, the artisans, the potters, the sculptors, the pheri walas, the rickshaw pullers, the coolies, the scrap-dealers, the mechanics, the vegetable sellers, the tailors, the halwais, the bird seller, the tamasha-walas etc etc

Forget computer, many can't afford a new slate that comes 500 times cheaper. The man who works at a tea shop near my office gets Rs 1500 a month. And each of their tribe is in millions in this vast country. So when pyaaz gets Rs 20 a kg, this person on the streets gets terribly affected. When the packet of milk (half-litre) costing Rs 10 goes to Rs 10.5 and then Rs 11 in three months, this man feels the real pinch.

Yes BPOs are important but when TV channels scream over threat to jobs of 5,000 BPO employees, the plight of at least 5 crore farmers (in at least five of the 25 states at any given time) where crops have failed again, goes unnoticed.

The upper class and the cream amongst middle-class may not feel the bitterness over Re 1 or 50 piase but these additional 'athannis' on milk packets work. BJP remembers it well. They lost Delhi state government and later the Union government and all their shine was covered with mud by this rural, urban poor and real India.

Now suddenly it seems the Congress is realising that price rise is becoming an issue. Mahangai ya badhti qeeematein, jo bhi kahiye mudda ban chuki hai. TV channels may keep middle class India hooked with Matuknaths, Meeka-Rakhi, Malika Sherawat but the truth is that the failure to control prices of grains and essential commodities is going to hit the government hard. If Congress thinks it can get some seats in UP, it's a daydream, they can at best expect a double figure.

And the general elections are not too far. Manmohan Singh's image of an honest man who is conscious to the problems of ordinary Indians, aside...people are wondering why this is happening. After all, why can't an economist PM and his seasoned FM look beyond the Sensex.

Gas cylinder is now costing over Rs 320. The cement bag which was Rs 125 is suddenly over Rs 200 in a year and all this happens when FM urges the companies to take measures. Just imagine the state of affairs that the day Chidambaram asks banks to keep Home Loan Rates under check, the ICICI raises the price of home loan on the very same day.

And when all this happens regularly, the common man, spits on the ground and says, 'kyaa mazaq hai, saale ch*&ia samajh rakha hai'. Crude it may seem but that's no joke, hundreds of millions of Indians have to run their household in Rs 2,000-Rs 4,000 despite hard labour for long hours. Price rise is the biggest issue (I don't use the economists' term Inflation)....I am angry and my rant will continue.