The editorial “Need for a partial rollback” (Nov.19) was interesting and right in saying that “a good part of the blame for the difficult situation in Tamil Nadu must be borne by the United Progressive Alliance government, whose efforts at controlling food inflation have been feeble and ineffective.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent stand that high inflation is a sign of prosperity is debatable.
Though the rationale for these revisions are clear, this cannot be of much solace to the poorer sections, who are reeling under the after-effects of inflation. The hike in the price of milk is bound to have an adverse effect on the nutritional levels of children in poor households. One also wonders how the gadgets given away in social beneficiary schemes — mixers, grinders and laptops — will be put to use. A rebate is required.
Since 2006, the various parties that have ruled Tamil Nadu have focussed on “freebie schemes” with an eye on vote banks instead of concentrating on economic development and good governance. In a way, the recent price hike is a wake-up call to the people that freebies are, at best, an illusion.
The editorial has echoed the feelings of concerned citizens in Tamil Nadu. After a mind-boggling exercise of rolling out freebies, where the sole aim was to capture power at any expense, one often wondered how the monies would come for such extravagant exercises. Finally, everyone is being made to bear the burden. It is a fact that the new economic order has increased the number of the poor and unemployed in the country. Does any one spare a thought for the poor and the middle class?
The reasons given by the government, especially in connection with milk, seem to be justified. Nevertheless, I wish to narrate an extract from the speech of then Vice-President Hidayatullah at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. He said: “Why milk, which used to cost about twoannasa seer at one stage is being sold at 30 times the price today? Formerly, the mother milked the cows, the girls set the milk out in pans to bring the cream to the top and one of the boys sold it carrying it in a handcart. Now the department of agriculture is mobilised, the cow sheds are sterilised, the cows are immunised, the milk is homogenised, the supplies are motorised, the dairies are organised, the milkmen are unionised, the milk products exports are subsidised, the political leaders are energised and the result is that the Indian consumer is victimised.”
Once again the hike in the power tariff will restart the debate on harnessing renewable sources of power. Why not follow the Australian model? Australia is all set for the best utilisation of solar energy by tapping contributions from every household. The government has made power generation a cottage industry by encouraging citizens to install solar panels on rooftops to generate even two to three kilowatts, and provides a subsidy of 50 per cent of the cost of such installations. The excess power generated on sunny days over the needs of the house is fed into the main grid through a reversible energy meter. At night, the house receives power from the grid. They are charged only for the excess of power consumed (what is fed into the grid minus what is consumed by the house). If the power generated is more than the power consumed, the same is on credit and residents have an option of either encashing it or keeping it on credit for a rainy day.