Millennium Post

A harsh LPG winter is here

Many members of the middle class would wish that they were not humans but snakes this winter. The non-subsidised price of LPG cylinders, now linked to international gas prices, will cost upwards of Rs 877.5 per cylinder till March, a minimum increase of 17 per cent, thanks to increased demand for heaters internationally. Now out of the protective glove of subsidy, the prices are expected to go only up through winter till winter subsides in the West and demand decreases. Only then prices in India will go down. Clearly, it’s going to be a harsh winter for most Indians who are dependent on cooking gas for their daily meals and who are anyway burdened by price rise, across all indices. They would really wish that they were snakes and could hibernate throughout winter, unperturbed by prices rising and waking up only when the spring sets in and prices come down.

One only wonders, was it necessary to introduce de-subsidised prices in such a hurry? Was it necessary to push the already burdened middle and lower middle classes into further scarcity? Could the government not bear the subsidy for a few more months and then gradually unlock the price? This was the minimum the government could have done to ease out the difficulties that a large part of the population will face at the prospect of the price rise, once it decided, contrary to public mood and expectation, to de-subsidise LPG cylinders beyond allotment of six per consumer per year! It is amazing how swiftly the government is moving ahead with reform initiatives after sleeping on them for close to three years, pushing the economy into a lull and now trying to make up for the lost time by putting as much pressure on the people as possible. If this does not backfire politically, what will?

The rise in cylinder prices will also affect price of street and small food joints, troubling the common man further, millions of whom take a meal a day outside. The initial months could be very difficult till the economy falls in a place and attains a pace of its own. Hopefully, it will. Also, does the government promise that when international prices do come down, they will be passed on to the consumer? It seems unlikely, at least to the sceptic. So expect a new high in cooked item, small or big and more commotion in the kitchens across India. Or you can say to yourself, ‘I eat less because it is healthy [and I am poor]!’
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