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Inflation and food security: Facts versus propaganda

This is the third and concluding part of the article on the propaganda surrounding inflation in India.

Sanju Verma

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Under the UPA, retail inflation was more than 9% in 22 of the 28 months from January 2012 to April 2014. During this time, inflation even crossed into double-digits, 9 times. This was largely due to irresponsible fiscal policies, crony capitalism, and policy paralysis. Fuel inflation is a complex issue due to the linkages with global Oil prices. However, the Modi Government has been forthcoming and transparent in its pricing policies, accounting standards and also in how it is using its cess collections for the benefit of the nation as a whole. No one should forget that Congress left unserviced Oil bonds of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore, which are being serviced by the Modi government. The Congress earned political mileage by burdening future generations, these oil bonds.

On November 3, 2021, the Central Government cut the excise duty on Petrol and Diesel by Rs 5 per litre and Rs 10 per litre, respectively. On May 21, 2022, the Modi government, to further ease the burden on the common man, reduced the excise duty on Petrol and Diesel by Rs 8 and Rs 6 per litre respectively, which effectively means that in the last 6 months, the reduction in excise duty by the Central government has been Rs 13 and Rs 16 per litre, on Petrol and Diesel, with a revenue implication of well over Rs 1 lakh crore for the Central government. The entire cut in price was on cesses, so there was no impact on revenues of States. After the Centre slashed excise duty on Petrol and Diesel in November 2021, all Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled States also cut value-added tax (VAT) on fuel by anywhere between 13-21%. However, Opposition ruled States did not reduce their taxes on fuel by even a single penny. These states are Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal. Jharkhand reduced prices for certain segments, not for all. Chhattisgarh reduced VAT by a token 1% and Rajasthan by a measly 4%, while Delhi reduced VAT on Petrol but not on Diesel. It is nothing but rabid hypocrisy on the part of Opposition ruled States to expect the Centre to keep cutting excise duties, while these Opposition leaders are themselves refusing to cut VAT in their own States, by even a single penny!

Speaking of edible Oils, to provide relief to consumers, the Modi government reduced Customs duty on Crude Palm Oil from 35.75% to 8.25%. On Sunflower and Soybean Oil, the Customs duty was reduced from 38.5% to 5.5%. These duty reductions provide relief in excess of Rs 20000 crore.

Customs duty on Masoor was reduced from 30% to 10%, giving a yearly relief of Rs 1000 crore, while Customs duty on Steel was rationalised significantly. Further, Customs duty was exempted on Iron and Steel scrap, while Customs duty was also rationalised on Copper scrap. In addition, anti-dumping duties were revoked on various kinds of Steel. This provided significant relief to the metal industry. In textiles, Customs duty on key raw materials like Caprolactam, Nylon Chips and Nylon Yarn were rationalised. Anti-dumping duty was revoked on key raw materials like viscose fiber, PTA, other fibers and yarn, to make available these raw materials to industry, at a reasonable cost. As Covid-19 relief measures, significant exemption from Customs and GST were provided to medicine and medical equipment like Oxygen concentrators and ventilators.

Between 2020 and 2021, approximately 38 lakh MT of free food grains were provided every month to 81 crore beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). This year as well, the government will be providing free food grains till September 2022. Under GST, the weighted average rate has come down to 11.6% according to the RBI as compared to the revenue-neutral rate (RNR), as recommended by the RNR Committee, of 15.3%.

According to P Chidambaram, the Modi government has earned Rs 26.5 lakh crore from fuel tax collections between 2014-2021. He adds that the total outgo on free food grain, cash allowances to women, PM-Kisan and other cash transfers is “no more than Rs 2.25 lakh crore — which is less than the annual fuel taxes collected by the Centre alone.” These numbers posed by the former Finance Minister are nothing but a vicious bunch of lies. The outlay on PMGKAY alone is Rs 3.4 lakh crore while under PM-Kisan, over Rs 2 lakh crore has already been given to over 10 crore farmers. One is not even counting the subsidised gas cylinders given under PM Ujjwala Yojana or close to Rs 1 lakh crore that is being spent on giving free COVID vaccines to those who can’t afford it, or the huge amount of money being spent to give free health insurance under Ayushman Bharat, to the marginalised sections of the society.

According to the RBI, the total developmental expenditure by the Central government during the period 2014-22 was a whopping Rs 90,89,233 crore (Rs 90.9 lakh crore). This included more than Rs 26 lakh crore in the form of capital expenditure to modernise infrastructure and create productive assets, Rs 25 lakh crore for food, fertilizer and fuel subsidies and Rs 10 lakh crore on social services such as health, education, affordable housing, etc.

It is clear then, that the collections from the fuel tax have been put to good use as developmental expenditure, by the Modi government. It is unfortunate that a former Finance Minister (P.Chidambaram), would miss out on these basic data points either due to sheer oversight or deliberate ignorance. Either way, it exposes Congress and its falsehoods. The hard truth is, as compared to Rs 90.9 lakh crore spent on developmental expenditure by the Modi government in the last eight years, the previous Congress dispensation spent only Rs 49.2 lakh crore over a 10 year period, from 2004-2014. So to cut a long story short, while the erstwhile Congress regime behaved like the reckless, prodigal son and did not even bother to regret or repent for its recklessness, the Modi government has repaired and reinvigorated the Indian economy, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the bold lead in combining the best of both–Welfarism and Unrelenting Reforms.

Ukraine provided 42% of the world’s Sunflower Oil exports in 2019 – aptly, as the Sunflower is an iconic national symbol. The country also provided 16% of the world’s corn exports the same year, nearly 10% of barley exports, and has of course been a major wheat exporter. A “Black Swan” event like the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022, has, however, completely changed the food map of the world. Most livestock farmers do not have enough feedstock and grains and are shutting down their mills, with many Pig farms looking to shut down, as pork prices are slated to shoot through the roof. Mills in Southern Italy and elsewhere in Europe have shut down due to the naval blockade in Black Sea, which has led to blockade of grain supply. Egypt, one of the world’s largest wheat importers is now trading fertilizers for low-quality Romanian wheat as it cannot afford wheat from Ukraine or elsewhere due to a steep rise in freight costs. Serbia, the world’s 9th largest Corn exporter, has banned Corn exports. Kazakhstan has banned export of any form of food shipments. The USA, for months together, has suffered from a shortage of baby formula. To cut a long story short, the world in 2022, has been witnessing a global food crisis of unimaginable proportions, with global food prices at their highest ever since the 1970s. Amidst these challenging times, India has been the granary of the world and has reached out with “food-aid” to neighbours, right from Bangladesh and Nepal, to countries elsewhere like Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. India’s food security has been the product of PM Narendra Modi’s single-minded focus on being self-reliant. Critics who compare India with Sri Lanka forget that the total size of Sri Lanka’s economy is barely $80 billion, whereas India is an economic giant with a GDP of $ 3 trillion and counting. The total exports of Sri Lanka are hardly $15 billion, whereas India’s goods and services exports are a massive $ 670 billion. The percentage rise in fuel and food prices in India, despite the unrelenting global challenges, have been far, far lower than comparative peers. Schemes like Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGAY), which provide free ration and PM Ujjwala Yojana which provide subsidised gas cylinders, have ensured that the Modi government has reached out to the last person standing, in terms of last-mile delivery. For instance, the Modi government announced on May 21, 2022, that the Centre will give Rs 200 per gas cylinder to over 9 crore beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana this year. Beneficiaries will receive the subsidy on up to 12 cylinders. This will have a revenue implication of around Rs 6100 crore a year, for the Centre. In a nutshell, be it food security or inflation, while the world is faced with the worst crisis in over 50 years, India’s performance has been excellent, due to the nimble-footed and people-oriented Modi government that has always been ahead of the curve.

The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP, and the Bestselling Author of ‘The Modi Gambit’. Views expressed are the writer’s personal.

According to the RBI, the total developmental expenditure by the Central government during the period 2014-22 was a whopping Rs 90,89,233 crore (Rs 90.9 lakh crore). This included more than Rs 26 lakh crore in the form of capital expenditure to modernise infrastructure and create productive assets, Rs 25 lakh crore for food, fertilizer and fuel subsidies and Rs 10 lakh crore on social services such as health, education, affordable housing, etc.

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For the love of the chair

Shweta Shalini

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Back in 1975, the ruling Congress under Indira Gandhi had organised mass protests outside the PM’s house. The so-called “spontaneous rallies” and “people’s rallies” were against a high court ruling, which restrained the PM’s right to vote or draw a salary as a Member of Parliament. The conditional stay had allowed Indira Gandhi to retain the prime minister’s post. Indira Gandhi’s misuse of power had put her in a spot when Allahabad HC accepted a petition filed by Raj Narain, which found her guilty of corrupt practices under Section 123(7) of the Representation of People’s Act during her Lok Sabha campaign in 1971 at Rae Bareli. The mass rallies in support of Indira Gandhi were a desperate attempt to cling to the chair when the moral authority and legal tenability of the government was fast slipping away. Gandhi was in no mood to exit gracefully. To insulate herself from the court verdict, she declared an Emergency on 25 June 1975 on the grounds of internal disturbances.

A similar situation is playing out in Maharashtra as CM Uddhav Thackeray desperately clings to power. In the evening of 20th June 2022 when the political observers, media and politicians in Maharashtra were focused on the Vidhan Parishad vote counting exercise, about 30-40 MLA’s in the assembly quietly made their way out of the state. The surprising BJP victory in the fifth MLC seat proved what the LoP Devendra Fadnavis was saying all along “that inherent ideological contradictions and dissatisfaction within the ranks of MVA will fuel our victory”.

When news about the 40 MLA’s who left the state in rebellion against the MVA government in Maharashtra broke the next morning, CM Uddhav Thackeray found himself in a similar situation to Mrs Gandhi in 1975. The Uddhav Thackeray government has lost moral authority as most of his MLAs have deserted him and the government can no longer claim a majority. Realising this, the CM left the official residence Varsha in order to claim the high moral ground and bring back the MLAs. After emotional appeals failed, he tried to convince, cajole and even threaten the MLAs. He attempted a show of strength on the streets and removed the security of MLAs’ family members. After every attempt failed, he is still clinging to power and repeats what Indira Gandhi did—organising protests in solidarity with him even though he clearly knows that numbers in the Vidhan Sabha don’t favour him.

A graceful exit and the forming of a “natural alliance” with the BJP is what his rebel MLAs have demanded. A “graceful exit” for CM Thackeray is exactly what the NCP under Sharad Pawar wants to prevent, even though the NCP is under no illusion about the future of this government. The NCP is egging the Shiv Sena Chief to fight this losing battle, prolong this humiliation, conduct floor test and face more ignominy. How else can Shiv Sena be thoroughly humiliated than fighting for a lost cause? For two and a half years, the NCP worked in tandem with the MVA government in denying their share of power to Shiv Sena MLAs. Today, the NCP under Sharad Pawar is working on its design to weaken the Shiv Sena further by making them fight a losing battle despite a lack of numbers.

If Indira Gandhi’s experience is any indication, Uddhav Thackeray will face the same fate as Indira Gandhi faced in the 1977 elections immediately post-emergency. The protests on the streets notwithstanding, the Indian electorate has consistently demonstrated a preference for democratic ideals. The excesses and desperation to cling to power of the emergency era had paved way for the first non-Congress government in India. A similar trend will be visible in Maharashtra post the 2019 elections.

In 2019, Shiv Sena had fought elections in alliance with BJP under the leadership of CM Devendra Fadnavis. Uddhav Thackeray abandoned the alliance after elections and formed an unnatural alliance with the NCP-INC combine, thereby insulting the voter’s mandate. The Shiv Sena rebel camp led by Eknath Shinde today is merely calling for the undoing of this insult to the people and a return to the Hindutva fold. If CM Thackeray continues to cling to his chair, the people of Maharashtra will punish his group heavily in every upcoming election, while the “original Shiv Sena” of Eknath Shinde adhering to Balasaheb’s ideals will be rewarded by the voters. The post-emergency era brought non-Congress parties into prominence and led to the eventual decline of Congress. The Love of the chair on the part of CM Thackeray will lead to the same results. CM Thackeray can either choose to respect the mandate of the people and their elected representatives or risk losing his party altogether.

The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation.

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ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY IS TRENDING AND CONTAGIOUS

Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant.

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If one is asked, “How many times did you order food online in the last six months?” The chances are that one may not even remember the exact number. However, the answer to another question, “How many restaurants have you visited to enjoy food in the last six months?” would be “yes, I can tell.” Millions of Indians have similar answers. Nonetheless, one might be mistaken if they believe that consumers order foods online only because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most Indians had never thought that online food delivery would become so common that too, so fast. But the reality is that it is now part of urban consumers’ food habits, e.g., food purchase and consumption behaviour, in many countries, including India. It is trending and contagious. In the year 2021, more than 282 million Indians ordered food online, and the number is likely to increase to 493 million by the end of 2025.  

Was it all because of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns? No, the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of the e-commerce business, including the online food business. The two most important factors that led to the food delivery business transformation are a revolution in internet and digital technologies and fast-changing consumers’ lifestyles and preferences. 

Technology has enabled consumers to access their favourite foods from their preferred outlets at their fingertips. Food reaches consumers in the shortest possible time at the place and the time decided by the consumer and all of this without spending much. Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant. It is undoubtedly a fancied choice both for busy and lazy people. Consumers compare price, menu, quality, and outlet and select the best option that provides them with value. This is in addition to the time they save, a precious resource in modern times. With the number of smartphone users expected to increase to about 1133 million by 2025 from 847.7 million by the end of 2021, the future seems brighter. 

Consumers, too, are changing faster. Nuclear family, husband-wife working, increased disposable income, family members with varying tastes, not interested in kitchen work, and preference for a faster and easy option of getting food – all these have allured consumers to go online. Further, today’s consumers look for utilisation benefits and seek enjoyment, control, experimental value, and emotional arousal in their day-to-day activities. Ordering food online, fortunately, meets most of the wishes. Consumers today expect food to come to them instead of following, travelling, and waiting for it. With per capita spending on food and beverages expected to increase by more than 30% by 2025, many new consumers are likely to join the bandwagon, and existing customers will increase their online purchases.

There are two different types of online food delivery players in the market. First, the online food delivery system owned and run by established restaurants or food outlets, like Pizza Hut and Domino’s, makes home food delivery after consumers put their orders on their website. Next are food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, which source food from multiple restaurants and outlets and deliver it to consumers. In India, though restaurant-owned online food delivery is more popular and has a consumer penetration of 15.7%, online delivery platforms, with a penetration rate of 6.4%, are catching up very fast.

Online delivery platforms democratise the food market. Platforms provide every consumer with the opportunity to have food from any outlet, making it possible for smaller and not-so-popular food outlets to serve many consumers. In addition, food delivery platforms make local, traditional, and even international cuisine available to all consumers—a win-win situation for everyone. 

The online food delivery system has further decentralised and democratised entrepreneurship with concepts like dark kitchens or ghost kitchens. Dark kitchens create opportunities for established industries to extend their kitchen work and for professionals and entrepreneurs to start a new venture, even with a limited budget, by partnering with delivery platforms. Understanding what, how, and when customers order and how to meet those orders in the least amount of time at a lower price is crucial for the business’s success. It seems that online delivery players are mastering these tricks faster.

Delivering food in the proper packaging is more than 50% of food quality, and the industry seems to learn it slowly but steadily. It can be ensured that hot desi samosa and dosa reach the customer with the same crispiness as those served in restaurants. Hyderabadi Biryani, if not served as it appeared on the screen while ordering or with the fragrance that biryani is expected to have, may upset the customers. Restaurant owners have started using innovative packaging, and delivery partners have added specialised carrying boxes and well-planned routes through which foods are reaching faster and safely. Swiggy food survey 2021 indicates that Biryani and Desi Samosa were the most ordered meals and snacks, respectively, indicating that food delivery players in India are doing it briskly.

Food delivery platforms are labour-intensive, and their success is dependent on their partners. Their delivery persons, called “gig workers” in business terminology, are among the most crucial players in their business. Zomato, India’s second food delivery platform after Swiggy, employs more than 1,60,000 gig workers. Though their remuneration, working hours and conditions have come under scrutiny and have become the subject of debate, no one disagrees that the business creates many jobs at the field level. 

No doubt, advancing technologies, changing customers and innovations in the delivery business will result in the rapid spread of the industry. However, the food delivery business still has to cover a long distance before stabilising and settling down. Most delivery companies are yet to achieve their break-even and will require working hard to spread their reach and optimise costs. The business remains immensely competitive and reliant on the external business environment. 

In 2021, Indians ordered food worth 11782 million US dollars online, 30.4% more than the previous year. If the excitement the recent IPO of Zomato created, the presence of at least one food delivery platform for more than 100 million consumers, and fast-moving bikers with food in every lane are any indication, it establishes that online food delivery has arrived in India, and it will continue to grow and flourish. 

Niraj Kumar is a Professor of Rural Management at XIM University, Bhubaneswar. 

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SIDHU MOOSE WALA’S LAST SONG ‘SYL’ REMOVED FROM YOUTUBE

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singer Moosewala

Sidhu Moose Wala’s lastest song released after his assassination, SYL, the title referring to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, has now been taken off the video streaming platform YouTube.

The song on Punjab’s water issue, talks about the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, which has been an apple of discord between Punjab and Haryana for quite a long time. Composed by Sidhu Moose Wala before he was shot dead on May 29, the music video was released by producer MXRCI on Friday, June 23 on YouTube. However, on clicking the link of the video, a message gets displayed now, saying, “This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government.”

The song talks about undivided Punjab, the 1984 anti-Sikh Riots and its videos shows the Sikh flag being hoisted at the Red Fort during the farmer agitation.

Since its launch, Moose Wala’s song SYL has garnered over 27 million views on YouTube and got 3.3 million likes.

Sidhu Moose Wala was shot dead by assailants in Jawaharke village of Punjab’s Mansa district on May 29.

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R MADHAVAN TROLLED OVER HIS COMMENTS ON ISRO

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Amid the promotions of the film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, actor R Madhavan has found himself in the centre storm for his comments on Mars mission of the ISRO.

A clip of him saying that ISRO used the Panchangam (Hindu Calendar) to successfully launch the PSLV C-25 rocket to Mars has made him the subject of trolling. Now, the actor has issued a clarification.

In a tweet he wrote, “I deserve this for calling the Almanac the “Panchang” in Tamil. Very ignorant of me. Though this cannot take away for the fact that what was achieved with just 2 engines by us in the Mars Mission. A record by itself. @NambiNOfficial Vikas engine is a rockstar,” tagging former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan.

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Fake call centre busted in Delhi

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RSS

Delhi police busted a fake call centre for cheating over 250 unemployed people on the pretext of providing jobs, said officials on Sunday. The incident came to light when a complaint was received at the cyber cell where a complainant alleged that she was contacted by a woman named Muskan who stated that she is a recruiter from a job portal. The accused later asked the complainant to visit the job consultancy in Bhikaji Cama Palace for an interview and where they collected registration fees of Rs.3500 and Rs. 8500 on Google pay. The complainant was later issued an appointment letter in the name of other private companies and no job was given to her.

“As per the complaint, a case dated 21.06.22 U/s 420/468/471/34 IPC was registered at PS Cyber, Dwarka, New Delhi. During the investigation, the details of the alleged mobile numbers were obtained and the complainant also visited B-50, Somdatt Chamber-II, 9, Bhikaji Kama Palace, New Delhi,” said police. A trap was laid and a raid was conducted at B-50, Somdatt Chamber-II, 9, Bhikaji Kama Palace, New Delhi. During the raid, it was revealed that a fake call centre was found running in the name of Sunshine HR Global Services.

“During the raid, 16 mobile phones, 2 laptops, several registers and forged appointment letter pads in the name of Sunshine HR Global Services were recovered and 2 males and 5 females were also arrested. During interrogation, it was revealed that they cheated abut 250 unemployed youth with an amount of Rs. 23 lakh approximately as registration fees,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Dwarka, M. Harsha Vardhan.

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Two newly elected MPs can’t cast vote in coming presidential election

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The two newly elected members of Council of States (Rajya Sabha) from the State of Haryana namely Krishan Lal Panwar of BJP and  Kartikey Sharma (real name Kartikeya Sharma) who has been elected as Independent, can not cast their vote in the forthcoming 16th presidential election to be slated on July 18, 2022 as their tenure will commence from August 2022.  It is worth stating that the six years tenure of Rajya Sabha of both above newly elected MP’s from Haryana would only commence from August 2, 2022 and for which the requisite Gazette Notification would be issued by Union Ministry of Law and Justice under relevant provisions of Representation of the People Act, 1951 on August 2, 2022 itself.  

Divulging aforesaid information, Hemant Kumar, an Advocate at Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh said that  although both MPs have been issued Election Certificate after being declared elected by Returning Officer (R.O.) of Rajya Sabha Biennial Election from State of Haryana, RK Nandal, who is also Secretary of Haryana Vidhan Sabha but the  point is that the current tenure of two of total five incumbent MPs from State of Haryana viz. Dushyant Kumar Gautam of BJP and Independent Subhash Chandra is until August 1, 2022 and that their current  tenure can›t be cut-short merely due to the election of new successors on their seats.

It is pertinent to mention that Subhash Chandra has lost from Rajasthan while seeking fresh election to Rajya Sabha as an Independent candidate. Even otherwise, if Chandra would have been elected from Rajasthan, then his tenure as Rajya Sabha MP from such State should have however begun with effect from July 5, 2022 as the term of four MPs from Rajasthan would come to end on July 4, 2022. Even in that case, the tenure of two newly elected MPs from Haryana should have begun with effect from August 2, 2022. Kartikey Sharma, a debutant in the politics has defeated the Congress stalwart Ajay Maken a parachute candidate from Delhi in a neck to neck fight. It is being considered that being a parachute candidate resulted in the defeat of Maken.

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