nion Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Opposition are busy trading charges against each other and scoring political brownie points in Parliament over the soaring prices and rising inflation. But, a six-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh has spoken the unvarnished truth. She has proven that the economic mismanagement is of such proportions that even children are not spared in these trying times. As always, it is the child who has the guts and honesty to point out the emperor has no clothes on, while sycophantic courtiers and petrified grown-ups dare not utter the truth. Kriti Dubey, a student of Class 1 has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining about price rise and the “hardship” she is going through in buying “pencils and rubber”. She got annoyed recently when her mother scolded her when she had lost her pencil in school. In the letter, which has gone viral on social media, the little girl has accused the Prime Minister of having “caused a steep price rise” making “even my pencil and rubber (eraser)” and a popular product of easy-to-cook noodles children are fond of “costlier”. She has complained her mother beat her for asking for a pencil. Making an impassioned plea to the Prime Minister, she has asked him to tell her what she should do as other children steal her pencil. Her father Vishal Dubey, an advocate, reacted to her letter by terming it his daughter’s “Mann Ki Baat” – in imitation of the Prime Minister’s periodic addresses or monologues to the nation speaking his mind on various issues facing the country without caring to listen to the voice of the people.
The Union Finance Minister claimed India’s economy is much better than most countries and that it is still the fastest growing economy. She even cited “global agencies’ high ranking” during a debate over price rise in the Lok Sabha. Her self-congratulatory remark that “everybody -MPs and State Governments- has played their role,” only adds insult to the injury inflicted on the people by the government’s poor handling of the economy buffeted by runaway fuel prices, soaring inflation and their cascading effects on edibles. As a result, the Indian kitchens are bearing the brunt of the price rise. Besides the fuel and edible oil costs, domestic cooking gas prices have also shot up recently. The high fuel prices have had a spillover effect on transportation. The record increase of around Rs 480 in just one year, in the price of a 14.2 kg cooking gas cylinder to over Rs 1,000 per cylinder, makes a mockery of the government’s claim of providing direct subsidy to the consumers. In fact, subsidies for gas cylinders have been virtually stopped by the government for the last two years. In the Special Tribal Component (STC) in budget 2022-2023, the subsidy for provision of gas cylinders to tribal households is slashed from Rs 1,064 crore to just Rs 172 crore. This is how the government is cushioning rural women against the hard work of fuel collection. The question is how many can afford gas cylinders at such a high price.
Recent findings of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy reveal the alarming reality that 17 per cent of households have an average monthly income of a meagre Rs 8,600 and 62 per cent of households earn just Rs 14,400 a month. With such low incomes, the impact of price rise of essential commodities is bound to be devastating.
The need of the hour is that the government should fix the problems the country is facing. It can do so simply by not interfering in the common citizens’ economic activities, as it has been prone to do, in multiple instances, since Demonetization of 2016. It could show some sensitivity to the common man’s sufferings by refraining from juggling with statistics and spreading untruths. It should stop helping a few superrich families, close to the powers that be, to make windfall profits at the cost of the already beleaguered Indian.