Unorthodox mantra for ache din
Unorthodox mantra for ache din, The promised ‘ache din’ have not come as yet. It may be patently unfair to expect a turnaround within a month of NaMo...
Though he is topping the Twitter charts and Facebook posts, Narendra Modi has not been opening before the byte hungry who have parked their OB vans outside his office and residence. Rajnath Singh, the number two in the Cabinet, has just started speaking. But his monosyllables are Lucknow and Delhi-centric and as such offer no solace for those outside the cow belt.
Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister, and Prakash Javdekar, the Minister for TV, Radio and Environment, are the most visible faces of the BJP–led government as on date. But that is also no compensation either to the aam-aadmi hit by price rise. Arun being the hardcore Delhiite, and Javdekar from the land of Lasalgaon should have known their onions more so since Sushma Swaraj is still licking the wounds inflicted by the onion rage the national capital had witnessed when she was paradropped as the Chief Minister of the city state on October 13, 1998. Her reign had lasted hardly two months with the electorate rejecting her and the BJP in the elections held before the fresh coat of paint given to her official residence dried up
So much so it is surprising that the slew of measures announced to check prices of onions and potatoes in Delhi are no different from the “Ops Onion” Sushma had mounted during her time. Raids on hoarders and mobile vans to sell ‘sarkari’ onions and potatoes lost the novelty value a long while ago. You cannot expect the business community to stop laughing all the way to their bank when there is a shortage syndrome.
True to their trade style book, the price of onions became Rs 30 plus a kilo in the retail market, up by about ten rupees in a month. Potatoes have become dearer by some six rupees and are available at around Rs 28 a kilo. Poor NAFED has been brought into the picture again. It has been entrusted with a task it is not equipped to handle with confidence never in the past and certainly today. Right from his Day One at his South Block Office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been calling for fresh ideas. Just E-mail if you have any new ideas, he keeps telling his visitors. The rehashing of the old ideas for price control shows he has been ill-served by his visitors and party cadres alike. This is bad news for you and me – the aam aadmi who have pinned much hope on NaMo mantra for a bright tomorrow. Since these are early days, probably we should not loose hope. And heed the plea of Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Rural Development and Transport, who says, “For ache din, give us at least a year.” He is a grass-roots leader from Maharashtra, and is comfortable to slip into his native tongue quite too often. That is beside the point.
The fact of the matter is the NaMo government too has not allowed itself to think out of the box and has become dependent on the bureaucracy. This is the reason why we are back to hearing the grand-old hackneyed concepts like contingency plans for the next two months from July 15 to September 15. The bureaucracy is a past master in tantalising the political executive with instant nirvana whenever confronted with a problem. And offering the media a very convincing case with a straight face as I have noticed over several years.
The three-legged animal, as Pandit Nehru once described the Steel frame, should have put in place these contingency plans in May if not much earlier since the Met Department has been cautioning about scanty rainfall and consequent drought like conditions in Western and Northern states. They have not done this home work and the BJP leadership is finding in the UPA a convenient punching bag.
Unlike the ‘accidental prime minister’, who preceded him, Modi is clear that the buck stops at his table. Yes, even on price rise issue. Since he keeps harping on Saarc spirit even from the rocket launch pads of Sriharikota, he could have escaped the price blues had he asked his brain trusts to visit Karachi and see how the commercial capital of Pakistan is coping up with inflation during the ongoing Holy Month of Ramadan. Led by a very imaginative bureaucrat at the helm of civic affairs, Karachi administration has put in place a novel method that has no parallels. And it is deploying the transgender as vigilantes at the market place. What these vigilantes do is simple. They go around in batches in various markets shrieking in the only way they can, and clapping their hands in their inimitable way. The effect is electrifying. As soon as the sellers hear or see them coming, they do the unthinkable – lower their prices, prominently display the price list and stand alert with fake smiles plastered across their sweat-browed faces, according to the Express Tribune, a leading English daily published in collaboration with the International Herald Tribune.
Writing about a ‘raid’ on the Empress Market, the daily said fruit sellers ran away leaving their push carts. A burly poultry seller faced the music literally. “If you don’t stop profiteering, you will go to hell!” shrieked the transgender-inspector, making him shiver in embarrassment, and realise he is helpless against the new moral police on prowl.
Let me add one more nugget about Karachi’s tryst with price rise. The transgender is taking their new responsibility seriously – they check the price lists, rebuke the shopkeepers and alert the officials on the help line provided to them. On their part, the civic officials are taking them seriously, because as the Karachi Commissioner says, “Transgender do not lie”.
It is not my case that NaMo should send his mandarins to Karachi instead of Ahmedabad to learn a new thing or two. There is no perfect recipe. And one must keep trying for a way out of any mess. Price rise and consequent inflation are problems that arise out of supply-side mismanagement and lack of advance action to overcome shortages. Neither the de-hoarding drive nor the RBI’s tight monetary policy offer a way out, though they are perfect text book solutions. This is the message of Manmohanomics. Being a quick learner, Modi will deliver on his ‘Ache Din’ promise, if he allows himself to be truly unorthodox in his approach to men and matters.