I am relieved that journalists like Namita Bhandare (“A media circus says something about us”, Mint, 27 May) have chosen to speak about the irresponsibility with which channels and publications have taken apart the Aarushi murder case. I choose the word “relieved” because your reproach of the handling of the situation by the authorities and media alike brings the attention back to the core issues as opposed to the character assassination of myriad people... It is indeed trial by media of the worst kind. I can’t help but draw parallels between the Jessica Lall murder case and how the focus had initially shifted to her “dishonourable” past as opposed to authorities bringing the culprit to book. Readers have been made to believe theories by concocting tales and digging up unnecessary details around the crime.
It’s time the government took quick, hard, decisions on fuel pricing. From $50 to $126, and now $135 per barrel, oil prices have been surging relentlessly and there is no stopping at that.
The mounting losses of the oil marketing companies have badly hit their revenues as the government is not letting them to increase the price of their output due to political populism.
While Reliance Industries has closed all its pumps, Oil and Natural Gas Corp. has put on hold its decision to open new outlets. Their decisions are likely to have been due to the high price of crude oil.
The government is issuing oil bonds by creating off-budget liabilities that will at best be a palliative for increasing the prices of petroleum products. This will result in heavy subsidies on them and consequent deficit financing resulting in inflation.
This is time not only to take a hard look at petrol prices, but also automobile industry and transport sector policies. With economic growth, the automobile industry, too, has experienced a boom, largely driven by demand in urban areas. New models of vehicles, small and big, are being added. As a result, cities are being choked with these cars even as the road infrastructure has not kept pace with the increase in the number of these vehicles. In fact, little attention is being paid to this problem.
Not only that, these vehicles are used inefficiently. In countries such as Britain and the US, car pooling is encouraged and there are specific measures to discourage use of private cars during peak hours by imposition of taxes. Parking charges in the central business districts are very stiff. The vehicle population on roads is thus checked.
The story of fuel wastage is similar in case of the aviation sector: Aircraft across the country hover over airports, at times for 30 minutes, before landing. Aviation transport, which was set to boom with the introduction of cheaper air fare, is now about to totter. All these represent a huge wastage of fuel. With the annual increase in demand by 10%, a time will come when we will not have sufficient foreign exchange to fund oil imports that are predicted to touch $200 per barrel. The fertilizer, power and transport sectors depend mainly on crude and 90% of India’s requirements are being imported. The costs of agricultural inputs, too, will shoot up.
In sum, the pricing of oil products on subsidies requires reconsideration based on costs. There is no reason why fuel for private vehicles should be subsidized. Prices of oil products should be deregulated to their market levels and taxes need to be moderated. There should be emphasis on expansion of public transport.
Since oil will not last for eternity, steps should be taken to contain consumption by exploiting alternative energy sources. The use of bicycles should be encouraged all over the country. This is in vogue in industrially advanced and ecologically sensitized countries such as those of Scandinavia. There is no reason why we in India cannot take up these good and sound practices.