Quick Edit | Storm in a cup of dal

Quick Edit | Storm in a cup of dal

Soaring food prices have traditionally led to violent unrest in the streets and high political drama.

The government said on Thursday that food prices in the last week of November were around one-fifth higher than a year ago, resulting in the highest food inflation in 11 years. The reaction from citizens and politicians has been strangely muted.

Why? There are several possibilities. One, Indian families have moved up the income ladder and spend a lower portion of their monthly budgets on food these days. Two, rural pain has been reduced by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Three, urban workers have lost their voice because of the growth of informal employment and the collapse of trade unions. Four, the major opposition parties are too distracted by their internal problems to take advantage.

But there will be a breaking point when the pain will lead to anger. Remember: Food has a 47% weight in the Consumer Price Index for urban manual workers and 67% in the index for farm labourers. This is a tinder box.