'Our Marie Antoinette'

Kashmir Times. Dated: 12/7/2019 11:56:07 AM

Nirmala Sitharaman's comment on soaring onion prices exposes the careless attitude with which the Indian economy is being treated

Amid the raging debate over soaring onion prices in the country, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman telling Lok Sabha, she comes from a family "that has little to do with onion" speaks of her ignorance or non-seriousness over food inflation. This also exposes the lack of knowledge paralysis, the NDA-government is suffering from, besides centre failing to initiate any steps to control prices not only of the onions but also other vegetables that form staple diet of majority of Indians. The manner in which she made the comment goes on to suggest that she is "our own Marie Antoinette", the wife of France's King Louis XVI, infamous for her callous remark when she was told that her French subjects had no bread. To this, she said, "Let them eat cake". The comment was made in the eighteenth century, when the food famine was looming large over the country in France leading to a historic revolution. These comments do hold good in the present context because the situation on the food inflation front is becoming no different than what was experienced by the French people 250 years back. By resorting to such comments, Nirmala Sitharaman allowed the opposition political parties a field day for having a dig and jibes over her observations. Going a step further, the former Finance Minister P Chidambaram during a press conference asked "Finance Minister said yesterday that she doesn't eat onions, so what does she eat? Does she eat avocado?" Taking these comments in a lighter vein and mock fun at the Nirmala Sitharaman, such reactions cannot be wished away in view of the seriousness of the situation on economic front that is staring the country in the face. It is a question of not only economic slowdown in India, but also that the core sector is facing negative production of the goods and there is 'virtual death of demand' in the market. This seriously means that the common masses of the country do not have sufficient money in their pockets to purchase essential items of daily use. Food commodities have continued to register high inflation during the past five years particularly after demonetization and wrongful implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Apart from the politicking over food inflation and high onion prices, sight cannot be lost of the fact that the farmers, producing onions have been getting less twenty times their prices in the market for their produce. This has unfortunately put the producer at the receiving end and this has been the main reason that farmers have been committing suicides in the country because of low return even for the grains. The input cost has been increasing with the passage of every year and forcing the farmers to avail loans, which they are unable to repay as the demonetization has played havoc with the rural and agriculture economy. The production of agriculture products has been going up, though not on the expected lines, but the return has been on the lower side due to steep fall in purchasing power of the citizens while the middlemen have been making quick buck by creating artificial shortage of essential commodities. Coupled with this, the problem of unemployment has also been rising and with 6.5 percent figure, this has been the worst ever in the past 45 years. The small scale industries have been facing closure due to lack of demand and high input cost in the production creating more unemployment. Besides these factors, changes in labour laws for the Indian workers have also been contributing in unemployment in all the major sectors. With no clue about how to correct the economic slowdown and manage the economy, the NDA-government and its ministers are busy in passing the buck and blaming the previous regimes for the current situation. Unless course correction in economic measures is made, the worst is yet to come and the common masses.

 

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