An affable, or rather timid voice as some may say, asks the finance minister of India the question “when is the government planning on reducing the cesses on fuel…?” to which the IIM-A student adds the horror faced by many commoners of this country when they see “triple digits for single litres of petrol and diesel.”
As the nonchalance breaks, the minister quickly diverts the attention, first by contradicting her statement on the student’s way of speaking and then addressing the issue after a long pause by saying that she “won’t be able to tell when”. She further refers to the situation as a ‘dharam sankat’, a Hindi substitute for what the west will describe as a ‘divine’ dilemma.
Now, a lot of us are not financial experts, including me and we aren’t particularly undermining the skills of Sitharaman, but what does this mean for a commoner? A citizen who barely has any idea about the fancy terms in a highly qualified finance professional’s lexicon would only be able to take away either of the facts: today’s Indian government has no idea what it’s doing to the country’s economy or perhaps some will have faith no matter what.
An egoistic know-it-all supporter of the current government will disagree with me and say that we don’t know better than those who run this country in actuality. An ode to the 80s with the crude oil prices rising in the west as US-Arabia relationships become more and more volatile, a similar trend has been haunting modern-day India as its leaders fail to reassure its citizens of a way out. In reality, the data from energy.gov suggests that on the contrary, U.S pays ½ of what India pays per litre of petrol.
Barclays India, in their report, suggested that India’s sole dependency on fuel taxes will pose to be a threat, feeding into inflation.
The Prime Minister, if we go by his words, on the other hand, seems to have kept everything in check for India’s financial stability. He says, in his rather glib speaking mannerism, that “price rise is also under check and there is macro-economic stability.” The words break into shambles as Sitharaman fails to give Indian citizens the relief they need in desperate times like these. Some argue that this will only help India shift to electric vehicles but to counter that fact, personal vehicles only consume a minuscule fragment of petroleum’s use in India.
The larger chunk is claimed by the transport and agricultural sector of India at 70% diesel with 99.6% petrol use and 13% diesel use respectively. The price surge for such commodities will affect the larger chunk of the population that relies on public transport for instance or agriculture for daily bread. This coupled with the ongoing situation of partially privatising the agriculture sector poses a threat to the farmers of this nation.
A short and simple answer to this in layman’s terms is the multi-layered tax structure in India that is a combination of state and central taxes. In addition to this, it’s important to know that fuel in India is largely imported from other countries and the prices aren’t in the hands of the government just yet. The control of the government in this scenario becomes evident when it imposes those taxes on the fuel that oil-marketing companies purchase. The price trend, on the contrary, plummeted in other countries while the prices still soar high in the Indian market.
To answer this, Modi’s government did what it does the best, pinned all the blame on the past.
Talking about the past, India has seen inflation under congress as well and yes, it has affected the Indian economy with somewhat the same severity but the fact that history repeating itself under a government which deemed itself to be different than the opposition, promising to ‘reverse all its mistakes’ has been doing nothing but trying to divert the blame from one person to the other.
The centre says that it’s the reliance on other countries and lack of ‘atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance that is the reason for India’s current economical scenario in energy generation.
It seems as if the government is obsessed with using Hindi substitutes for a very linguistically diverse country rather than focusing on how to solve the problems that citizens face.
Perhaps this helps their agenda of Hindi imposition under the ‘one nation, one language; scheme, which is a topic that’s fortunately not reserved for today. And to sum all of this, we don’t reach a real conclusion rather than the fact that it’s always the mistakes of the past and aspirations of the future that our government has been focusing on while overlooking the present. This ambiguous ending can be perceived as what the government does when it plays the role of a smooth talker, failing to address the concerns and falls into the hole of a never-ending dilemma.