Look Who Is Defending Rising Prices!

I get a knock on my door. It’s the cooking gas cylinder delivery boy.

I receive the cylinder and pay him Rs 1,079. I feel the pinch as it is more than 160 per cent increase from Rs 410 per cylinder in 2014.

I share my anguish about the steep hike and how it is now hurting my kitchen budget in a social media public platform.

I am astonished, rather flabbergasted, by the instant responses from some people — not consoling me but defending the price hike.

At least six people want to know what my salary was in 2014 and what it is now, as if I was making an unnecessary fuss over a gas cylinder.

“Sir, my income has decreased since 2014,” I answer them individually.

“I asked you about salary,” one of them snubs me.

My response: “My income is not salary, sir.”

Another puts me in my place. “I think your performance is not up to the mark,” he says and then adds that his salary has grown by 200 per cent in the last eight years.

Yet another goes one step further: “My salary increased by 450 per cent in the same period.”

Swallowing the humiliation of being termed a ‘non-performer’, I congratulate them for their achievement.

Then there are some others who accuse me of bluffing about paying Rs 410 per cylinder in 2014. They post the data from a public sector oil company where the price of a domestic cylinder is mentioned as Rs 1,270 in January that year.

I tell them they are overlooking the fact that the list carries “non-subsidised” prices and remind them that they too got cylinders at their doorsteps at the subsidised price of Rs 410.

But the defenders of price rise are unstoppable. They churn out more reasons.

The hike in the cylinder price is meant to compensate for the loss of “taxpayer’s money” in providing subsidised rice to the poor people, one says. (The same logic is given in the case of increase in oil prices, isn’t it?)

By the way, I try to reason with him, the subsidised rice comes under the government’s social security programmes that also include health and childcare. I tell him that the budgetary allocation for social security programmes in India is much less than many other countries and is peanuts compared to corporate loot by way of loan waivers worth lakhs of crores of rupees.

Some other devil’s advocates compare the gas cylinder price hike with the increase in the real estate price. “Does the piece of land that you bought in 2014 cost the same in 2022?” one of them asks.

I am about to get exhausted by the incessant grilling but thankfully more and more harassed consumers like me come to my rescue. Their furious responses on my behalf force the defenders to retreat.

Isn’t it strange that now there are some, in fact a sizable number of, people who defend the rise in the prices of essential commodities? It was unheard of earlier. These new ‘economists’ compare the rise in prices of essential commodities like petrol, diesel, edible oil, dal and vegetables with those of real estate.

They assume every Indian has become a salaried person and bought a plot of land every other day just like he buys dal, edible oil, vegetables, petrol or a gas cylinder. They brush aside all the data about the pathetic condition of the economy, rising prices, inflation and unemployment with derision. They attack, deride and humiliate anyone cribbing about the problems in the country.

I check the social media profile of each of the defenders. They all admire a leader who, they believe, can do no wrong.

They are damn sure about the promised ‘good days’ that their leader would usher in no time. One may think they are living in a fool’s world, but for them it is not an illusion but eternal truth.

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