Whenever vegetable prices go up, the middle class is up in arms. But how come they don't mind spending anything for buying flats, gold/silver, car, and other luxuries -- ft.com picture
At the outset let me first acknowledge that I don't see any valid reason for the stupendous rise in vegetable prices that we are witnessing for the past few days. As i have always maintained that the kind of price rise that we have seen in the past several years, which incidentally is the only time when we feel and talk of inflation, has nothing to do with supply demand constraints. Its simply linked to hoarding and profiteering. I have more than once stated publicly that unless the Government gets tough on the retail trade, it is difficult to bring control over runaway inflation that inches one and all.
Having said that, what I find it intriguing is that it is only when the vegetable/fruit prices start showing an upward trend that the media wakes up. It is only then that I find the middle class complaining. Suddenly the ladies who appear on the TV start telling us how difficult it has now become to manage their household in the monthly budget. This makes me ask: Is fruit/vegetable prices the only thing that decides the household budget? Why do the same people remain conspicuously quiet when the price of gold, for instance, jumps from Rs 12000/10 grams to Rs 30,000 and above. Does it not affect their household budgets? What about those who have to get their children married? Don't they feel the pinch of the quantum jump in the price of gold/silver?
It is roti, kapda and makaan that every one looks forward to. Over the past few years, the price of residential flats in every nook and corner of the country has literally gone through the roof. Planning Commission had once blamed the real estate for the 400 per cent increase in reality prices. If you are an average middle class person, I bet it is not possible for you to even think of owning a house or a flat in any city. Thinking of buying land, then you must be really rich. News reports tell us that a cent of land in Mumbai is now more expensive than Tokyo or New York. is that not the kind of inflation that affects the middle class? Then how come every one is quiet.
Instead of screaming at the top of their voice, I find the newspapers and the electronic media actually celebrating the massive rise in land and housing prices by bringing out weekly supplements. Just because any hike in real estate prices brings additional revenue for the newspapers and TV channels, is it fair to remain quiet and not draw the attention of the Government? But just because we remain a silent spectator to the spiralling prices, media benefits. In fact, this makes me wonder. If the vegetable hawkers (or through their associations) were to start advertising in newspapers probably you will never watch any TV programmes on inflation if and when the prices shoot up.
Not only gold and silver, the prices of almost everything that concerns us has been on an upswing. Whether it is your child's education, or your daughters college fees. Whether it is your train ticket or the air fare. Airlines have recently added on to your costs by unbundled prices like seat preference for instance. Taxi fares have been going up. It is more expensive to travel from my house to the airport or railway train station than to take a Volvo air-conditioned bus from Chandigarh to New Delhi. Petrol and diesel prices have been routinely increasing, even privatisation of electricity delivery has made power bills soar for an average family. And so on...
Isn't this all part of inflation that pinches us? Isn't this also responsible for upsetting our household budgets? Then why is that we never complain about anything except vegetable prices? Why is that media never talks about this? Well, because in some way, we all believe that the rise in prices of everything else except for vegetables/food constitutes economic growth. Just because we have surplus cash it is alright to spend. The more the expensive gadgets/services, the better we feel. But when the ostensibly poor people start charging us more, we start screaming. Our budget only goes for a toss when the tomato prices go up to Rs 80/kg or Onion prices increase to Rs 60/kg. But when a 2-bedroom flat in the outskirt of Delhi costs anything upwards of Rs 1.5 crore, we rejoice. We don't even get tired telling anybody and everybody around us the price we have paid for that flat. How come we are ready to pay crores for a flat (which surely is a superfluous price) and only crib when vegetable prices shoot up?
Isn't this middle class hypocrisy?