The bail for Satyam’s Ramalinga Raju is wrong, and indicates the failure of the Indian state once again to enforce accountability through its legal system. This is a big setback, and sends out a message that no matter what crimes one perpetrates, money can buy you bail and freedom in India. If the same scandal had happened in, say, the US, justice and punishment would have been swift and strong; instead, Raju has enjoyed special treatment, catered food, privileges and several months in air-conditioned comfort “in a hospital” since his arrest. This is simply a mockery of Indian law and shows how the political class is protecting him, being complicit in the scam. I hope the Supreme Court strikes this bail grant down; if not, it constitutes a tremendous betrayal of the average middle-class Indian citizen.
— Kavita Daiya
Given its egalitarian scope, the all-inclusive $2-20 measure that the Asian Development Bank uses in its report for daily per capita consumption (“The vulnerable middle class”, Mint, 24 August) manages to sweep an expensively educated politician-cum-diplomat into the same socio-economic class as his watchman-driver. There is just one difference: The watchman-driver faces a greater risk of regressing into the destitute class than the politician-diplomat.
— Vishva Bindlish
Back in the late 1970s, Chaudhary Charan Singh held the finance ministry portfolio and presented one budget. Within days of his appointment, prices shot up, because everyone expected him to tax everything heavily in his budget. He did, and for a whole year, we had near-20% inflation. More recently, our present agriculture and food and civil supplies minister, Sharad Pawar, made a statement that he expected milk prices to go up. And they did, within days.
When oil was ruling at $145 a barrel before the crash in 2008, there were dozens of articles in the US press that a simple statement from then president George Bush against the rampant use of sports utility vehicles in the US would start a virtuous movement, which would cool the market and push prices down.
Why is it that a world renowned economist like our Prime Minister and his many advisers do not see the huge opportunity presented by the Supreme Court exhortation this month that food grains otherwise rotting in the open should be distributed free, to have a tremendous psychological effect to push food prices down? Many feel that too many skeletons will tumble out of politicians’ cupboards, which is why the government will do nothing of the sort.
The most heartening news to come in recent weeks is the revelation that despite what was considered a severe drought, the overall agricultural production actually went up marginally, by 0.2%, last year. Despite this, we have had average food price inflation of at least 15% over these last few months. The reason is abysmal supply chain management skills in the government.
A lasting solution to ensuring reasonable food prices requires attention to the basics: enforcing good old perpetual inventory, stock verification and auditing systems; setting the bar high on availability of a limited number of items in fair price shops; putting young bureaucrats and giving them a fixed, three-year tenure to set the entire supply cycle right; and having a functioning full time food and civil supplies minister at the cabinet level (not one who is also the agriculture minister, de facto head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and formal head of the International Cricket Council).
Ideas such as the Food Security Act and the unique identity programme, despite the backing of brilliant minds, will not stabilize food prices. Given what we have seen, interested players will simply use the intervening period of debate and intellectualization to milk the system as much as they can. It is time the Prime Minister and his advisers bite the bullet on this.