By Jayesh Gupta
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
If we compare the inflation rates (year on year or yoy) for the month of April and September, we can firmly establish the efficacy of the new government policies. Before we go into that analysis, it is necessary that we simplify the economic language. Inflation rates are measured using price indices, where price is a sum total of cost accrued due to factors of production, taxes and margin for the entrepreneur. Further Consumer Price Index (CPI) is more efficient means to analyze inflation affecting common man given that CPI is a weighted average of products and services as purchased by end consumer or retailers. In India, CPI basket is broadly classified in to five subsets, namely: Food & Beverages (49.71%), Fuel & Light (9.49), Clothing, bedding & footwear (4.73%), Housing (9.77%) and Miscellaneous (includes services, 26.31%). For a middle class family, the most significant subsets are food and fuel. Since fuel inflation is affected largely by extraneous factors, we will limit our discussion to Food inflation and government policies concerning the same.
The period of the year ranging from July to December typically constitutes a crucial phase given the lacunae in availability of perishable food items (vegetables, fruits etc.), cereals and pulses. This situation is further exacerbated with rise in demand, given coincidence of important festivals such as Id-Ul-Fitr, Durga Pooja, Onam, Dusshera, Muhrram, Deepavali and Christmas. Any delay in Kharif produce can further exacerbate the situation. In this light we try to analyze the government policies ameliorating such a situation, and we further intend to compare the inflation index during UPA II and present NDA government.
Inflation rate for food and beverages, for the month of April ’14 (yoy) stood at an astounding 9.66%. And to add to its detriment, the inflation rate in perishable food items was extreme. Fruits witnessed highest inflation rate of 21.73%, followed by vegetables with an inflation rate of 17.5%, and the third highest inflated segment was milk and milk products with an inflation rate of 11.42%. However, the inflation rate for food and beverages fell to 7.56% during the month of September under the NDA regime. To note of particular importance is the fact that the inflation rate of vegetables fell to 8.59%, which is half of what we experienced during April ’14. Even the preceding UPA II was not capable to control food inflation during Sept ’13 and it was as high as 11.44%. Further inflation rate in vegetables during Sept’13 (yoy) stood at 34.93%. The present inflation control effort by the current NDA government is indeed commendable, and a slap on the face for the preceding UPA II. But it is of essence for us to analyze how the new government was able to control food inflation and what lacuna it still faces?
Regulation and deregulation of powers given to APMC (Agriculture produce marketing committee) holds the key to our answer. The issue of cartelization, hoarding and artificial storage had always paralyzed the APMC yards. And the worst affected are the perishable commodities, given their limited shelf life. This particular issue was tackled by the “Six month action plan” initiated by Mr. Arun Jaitely as a part of coordinated action between centre and states during July ’14. In its fourteen point action plan, three are of particular importance. One significant point approved market intervention by states on a real time basis. If properly executed, it holds potential to prevent “stock-out” during festive months. It can further control prices using “Price Monitoring Cell” and “Revolving state fund.” Second significant point emphasized removal of vegetables and other perishables from the ambit of APMC act and the immediate notification by state governments in this regard. It also empowered the states to exempt perishables from APMC yard tax/local fee during the interim period. The last, but essential feature, was to make offences under the essential commodities act non-bailable. Such bold steps seemed plausible, and indeed, are fructuous today. However, inflation in few food items including milk products and fruits showed no significant change. It remained similar to that of April ’14.
The inflation control efforts by the NDA government tend to invigorate the lives of many, however, it should also look in to inflation control for other food commodities. It should also not hesitate to draw examples from UPA II, as it is evident that UPA II managed to keep inflation in fruits and milk products to 9.33% and 8% during Sept ’13.
Jayesh Gupta is a recent graduate from IIT Mandi (H.P) .He believes in gaining a mélange of experience and has worked at various organizations like CSIR, teri & Maruti Suzuki, only to realize that his real interest lies in foreign affairs. An aspiring diplomat and a budding writer, he enjoys writing on international affairs and India’s position in the world. Due to his prior engagement as President of student’s technical affairs at his college he has a nick for politics and enjoys writing on political and social issues. Contact him at [email protected]