Dal is the new real estate
With the advent of technology, spending has become rather simple. However, what the world may not realise is that debt has also become inevitable. Under such circumstances, the rising prices of essential food items have become unbearable for most of the middle class and the lower strata. Wheat, Rice and Dal, the primary staple food variants, happen to be the sole necessity of a daily wage earner in India. Their ability to purchase these items is now under threat.
The price of pulses has reached a new record with a sale price of Rs. 210 a kilogramme. This alarming rise in price compelled the Modi Government to switch on their emergency mode and raid hoarders and figure out ways to curtail this unbelievable steep rise in price. It was only when the raid was practically conducted that 36,000 tonnes of pulses were recovered from hoarders. The whole process of rising expensive vegetables began with onions last month which crossed the 50 rupee mark to pulses now like arhar and urad beginning at 150 rupees a kilogramme; which happens to be the biggest motion for debate as far as the Bihar assembly polls are concerned. There have been multiple reasons for the rise in the prices of pulses. Irregular monsoon and poor harvesting may be the most obvious ones. However, another extremely important reason is also that pulses unlike edible oil, sugar, wheat, etc. aren’t quite available for purchase from other countries, with India itself being a major producer and supplier worldwide.
It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure a fallback plan to make pulses and lentils available in the markets at affordable prices with hardly or no purchase material available from the world outside. Lentils last year were available on an import charge of 700 to 800 dollars per tonne. However, this year the same quantity has been made available for more than three times the price of 2100 dollars per tonne. It is a clear indication that the import market is aware of the shortcomings of Indian production of lentils and pulses and is hence taking advantage of the situation to create an artificial scarcity. This could be an opportunity for the Government to take charge and invest in further farming technologies with farmers from across different states in India. States like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have already begun the process of sowing to grow chana on new fields along with Telangana and Maharashtra. It is also from next month that planting will commence in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. However, what is surprising is the fact that the Government has still not announced the minimum support prices (MSP) for rabi crops such as chana and masur that happen only to get attention as far as import and export are concerned.
Tackling hoarders also seem to be a major concern. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley had held an inter-ministerial meeting earlier this week where he blamed all the state ministers and authorities for not keeping a check on hoarders and corruption. He also issued a statement to the media stating that 5000 tonnes of pulses have already arrived and are being distributed as 3000 more tonnes seem to be on its way. With the current scheme of things, the state and the centre will have to pull out a dynamic miracle to prevent a large-scale crisis on affordability for the majority of the country. Suffice to say, both sides should have woken up when the Met forecasts first appeared in April.