Modi Sarkar’s biggest failure – No check on rocketing prices


One of the two biggest failures of the Modi Sarkar has been its complete failure to control food prices. The other failure is creation of jobs. Let us look at the prices here. Food prices have climbed up steadily in the past one year destroying family budgets and undermining much needed nutritional intake. Families are shifting away from things like pulses – the biggest source of protein for vegetarians – and many vegetables. The shocking fact is that despite widespread condemnation of the government on the pulses front, including during the Bihar election campaign, the Modi government has still not fixed the matter. Perhaps, it is not interested in fixing it?

Between December 2014 and December 2015, gram (chana) dal prices went up by 51 percent, arhar/tur by 94 percent, urad by 88 percent, moong by 10 percent and masoor by about 20 percent. This was expected because the pulses crop had yielded less in 2014-15 and imports would need to be increased. So, what did the government do?

In July 2015, the government held a meeting of State food ministers and instructed them to “take action against hoarding”. This action began only in October 2015 when the high prices of pulses became a burning issue in the Bihar elections putting the Modi-Amit Shah led BJP and their whole alliance in Bihar at risk. According to answers given in Parliament, 1.3 lakh MT of pulses were recovered from warehouses across some states between 19 October and 11 December, 2015.

Why did the government wait till October? In many of the major pulses producing and trading states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and in Gujarat where big traders have huge warehouses near ports for stocking imported pulses, it is the BJP that rules. So, how come the BJP did not carry out dehoarding raids in these states earlier? This points towards a clear policy of fooling the people by declaring all kinds of meaningless measures while silently allowing the big traders to fill their coffers by jacking up prices.

Because there is a large gap in production and consumption of pulses, which became more in 2014-15 because of drought, imports are necessary. So, when there is shortage in the market and prices are going through the roof, government should have imported pulses and released it through public distribution system.

What did the government actually do? It imported a mere 5000 metric tons of arhar. This decision was ludicrous because a) it was too late and b) importing 5000 MT would not help in bringing down prices when the annual consumption of arhar in the country is about 4 lakh MT per year or more than 11000 MT per day. Actually, the bulk of imports – something like 45.84 lakh MT in 2014-15 – are in the stranglehold of big traders, who use their position to manipulate prices. The government by importing just 5000 MT was taking care not to tread on their toes, and thus allowing prices to rise.

What else did the government do? It declared that a buffer stock of 30,000 MT arhar and 10000 MT of urad would be built after procuring from farmers. Quite apart from the fact that this is a measure for the future and it would not affect current prices, the procurement part would be successful only if good prices are offered much in advance so that farmers decide to sow various kinds of pulses. The government announced that Minimum Support Price of urad and arhar would be increased from Rs.4350 per quintal to Rs.4625 and that of moong from Rs.4600 to Rs.4850. That’s an increase of 6% and 5.4% respectively. When market prices are sailing at 100% increases over the past year, the BJP policy makers think a 5-6% increase is sufficient for farmers! Again this betrays a callous disregard for both farmers and consumers and loyalty towards big traders.

The BJP government’s bankrupt policy about ensuring pulses to the consumers is further revealed in this: the Modi government allocated just Rs.1309.77 crore for the pulses component of the National Food Security Mission in its first budget in 2014-15, down nearly Rs.300 crore from the previous budget allocation under UPA. It released only Rs.818.66 crore of this allocation. In 2015-16, it has allocated Rs.815.97 crore, cutting the allocation by nearly Rs.500 crore or 40% over previous year. Till November 2015, just Rs.14.6 crore had been released. These allocations were meant to encourage farmers to sow better yielding pulses, make seeds available and teach them better farming practices – all necessary if the country is to boost pulses production and escape the clutches of venal big traders and profiteers. But like all other things, Modi Sarkar is big in talk and zero in action – not only is it unable to control prices, it looks as if it is not interested in controlling prices at all.

As a popular Hindi idiom says, “Dal mein kuch kala hai” (literally – there is something black in pulses; meaning – the whole thing is very suspicious).