Prices of vegetables and other agricultural produce.

21/12/2009

The prices of sugar, pulses and vegetables have gone up in recent days/months in India. There is a lot of talk and criticism of the government on the poor handling of price situation. 

 Sugar prices have gone up world wide. The price of sugar in world market is US$620 a tonne or Rs.29 per kilo. In Vietnam it is Rs.48 a kilo and in India it is only Rs.30-Rs.35.

Similarly prices of vegetables have also gone up in many countries for reasons like flood, heavy rains, lower production etc. For example in Vietnam, cabbage costs now Rs.37.50 (VND15000) against Rs.12.50(VND 5000) earlier. Tomato costs Rs.32.50(VND13000) against Rs.10(VND 4000) earlier. In Tamilnadu for example, tomato costs about Rs.20  against about Rs.10 (VND 4000) earlier(all in retail market) The price of pumpkins went up in Vietnam from around Rs.12.50 (VND 5000)  per kg to Rs.35.(VND 14000)

In general in Vietnam prices have gone up by about 3 times while in India prices of  vegetables have gone up in recent times by about  2 times.

In Bangladesh the prices are reported to have  surprisingly fallen down, but they are still as high as or higher than in India. Brinjal used to sell at Rs.27(Taka 40) has come down to Rs.20,(Taka 20) which is the price in India, ladies finger from Rs.27(Taka 40) to Rs.23 (Taka 35) (In Tamilnadu it is Rs.20) and green chilli from Rs.33(taka 50) to Rs.20 (Taka 30). In Tamilnadu, green chilli is selling at Rs.20 a kg for several months.

In Vietnam and Bangladesh, the wage rates/salary levels  are much lower than in India.

The wages of unskilled agricultural and other laborers have gone up from Rs.35 per day to Rs.100 per day in the last three years for women and from Rs.70 per day to Rs.150- Rs.200 per day for men

 The prices of vegetables were very low in India for a long time and these need to be corrected. If prices stabilize at the present level, it would mean that the necessary correction in prices has taken place and the people need to accept this correction and learn to live with the present level of prices of vegetables. The prices may fall down but low prices may not last for long.

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Bus accidents and the ways to minimize the same

18/12/2009

Early in December 2009, 9 school children and a teacher, traveling in a school bus were drowned to death, when their bus skid and fell into the roadside pond which was water full to the brim. The driver was reported to have been talking on mobile phone which could be the reason for the fall of bus into the water. Some of the reasons for the accidents are:.

 i.. The driver’s careless, drunken, rash driving or driving while talking on phone or with passengers

ii. The bad condition of the bus, particularly the brakes and the tyres as well as lights.

 iii. The dismally poor condition of the roads- having deep potholes, slippery particularly during rainy season, being very narrow.

 iv. Ponds, lakes, wells on the roadside

v. people, cattle, dogs, cats etc .using or coming on to the middle of the road

The Government usually takes deterrent action in the case of accidents due to the first two reasons. The Government does not seem to have thought of taking action to avoid the causes iii to v.

The government should ensure that the roads are fit to be used by vehicles; that the roads are completely tarred/cemented, there are no potholes or ditches, sufficiently wide etc.

The roadways or public works department should undertake on an immediate basis  construction of walls along the riverside lakes, ponds and wells or the roads are moved away from these water reservoirs

Heavy fines should be imposed on people and owners of cattle etc which stray into the roads.

These measures would certainly go a long way to reduce the accidents and as well as the seriousness of the accidents.


Strike by employees and officers of the banks.

16/12/2009

Members of the All India Bank Employees’ Association and All India Bank Officers’ Association went on a one day nation wide strike on 16th Dec 2009 against the proposal to merge State Bank of Indore with State Bank of India and against the banking sector reforms like privatization of public sector banks. Banking operations were affected, but more than this, what is important to note is that:

It is not the business of the members of the associations to decide whether there should be merger of banks or not and whether there should be privatization or not. It is the business of the managements of the banks and the Government. The associations can demand that in the event of mergers/privatization, the terms and conditions of their service should be altered to their disadvantage-there should be no retrenchment, no reduction in salaries, promotion chances should not be reduced, retirement benefits should not be cut, etc. Of course if they have strong views against the proposals, they are free to give memorandum to concerned authorities, but they should not resort to strike. It is for  political parties, NGOs etc. to protest against the policies.

The Labour Department arranged talks between the associations and the managements of banks. This was also perhaps unnecessary. Conciliatory talks could have been arranged on issues like bonus, promotion chances, increase in salaries, quantum of leave etc but not on policy issues like mergers, privatization etc.


Why should a lazy person be rewarded

28/05/2009

The new Railway Minister of India, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, announced a special pass for those earning less than Rs.500 per month. The special costs Rs.20 to travel 100 km. Now the question is, why should anyone be earning less than Rs.500 per month? For unskilled males, the wages are about Rs.200 per day and for unskilled females, it is Rs.80- Rs.100 per day with one meal. A male worker can earn Rs.2,000 a month by working for 10 days. Similarly a female worker can earn up to Rs.1,000 for 10 days work.

The factories in towns and farms in rural areas are facing acute shortage of labour. Then why should a person not work for at least 10 days if not for 25 days? If a person is lazy enough not to go for work, should the Railways encourage him not to work, by offering him concessional tickets? One can understand special passes for the aged, sick and handicapped but not for people who are fit but are lazy, not to earn Rs.500 a month.


Reduction of shrinking of agricultural land

26/05/2009

A few decades ago, forest land was converted into agricultural land. In India, unused government land was distributed to the poor people for cultivation. Simultaneously, agricultural land was also being converted for non-agricultural purposes like construction of school, office and commercial buildings, factories etc. There was however, net increase in cultivated land. Of late, forests are not destroyed (in fact afforestation is going on) and the unused government land is limited. On the other hand more agricultural land is being used for buildings, factories, roads, railway lines etc. Agricultural production has been more or less stagnating at around 210 million tones a year for the last few years. Population growth rate has come down but the population is still increasing. Therefore, there is need to limit use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. Some of the ways could be:

  • All Government office buildings should be multi-storied – 8 floors and above.
  • All buildings constructed by the government for distribution/sales to poor People like the Samathuvapurams in Tamilnadu, units of Housing Boards etc should also be multi-storey buildings
  • Government should procure land in public interest only for present use and not for future use also. National Highways Authority of India has acquired much larger area than required on the plea that in future it would be required.
  • For factories etc. also, future expansion requirements should not be taken into account for present acquisition.
  • Burial should be discouraged and cremation should be encouraged
  • Private schools, colleges, hospitals should also be housed in multi-story buildings with safe lifts.
  • Government should extend liberal loans/grants to private persons for converting their single storey buildings into multi-storey buildings

Centre for Chaning vaues in Indian society

22/05/2009

The intellectuals in India are generally very critical about the bureaucracy and the politicians. They have a soft corner for the common people, particularly the poor people. The common/poor people are described as innocent, honest, hardworking, simple and good people. The bureaucracy and politicians are part of the society and if the society is good, the bureaucracy and politicians cannot be bad.

An agricultural worker or a construction worker or any worker in the rural areas is never punctual. He or she finds several excuses to stop work during the day. He usually takes one full day for the work which he could do in 2 or 3 hours. A worker does not work alone. He wants at least one more worker with whom he can talk while working.

If the people in general are like this, how do we expect a government employee to be different from them? Intellectuals talk of corruption in government. How can we eradicate corruption in government when the common people are corrupt? They want money for their votes for any election. They volunteer to bribe to get undue favors.

If the government is to be honest and committed for the betterment of the people, high values should be inculcated the society. Some of the important values to be inculcated could be:

  • Punctuality
  • Commitment to work
  • Taking pleasure in work; shuning laziness
  • Neither giving nor taking bribes
  • Independence – avoiding where possible seeking help or favors from friends or strangers or government
  • Valuing society’s needs more than individual’s
  • Sacrificing more for society than for self
  • Developing a sense of cleanliness – not littering on the streets, keeping public places clean
  • Accountability at all levels, from worker to manager in factories, from Peon to Secretary and Minister in the Government
  • Dignity of labor – not to look down on manual work
  • Respect to the weak, children and women
  • Repayment of debt

There is a pressing need for non-governmental organizations in India which can propagate values in the society.


India and Elections

22/05/2009

During the last 18 years since 1991, one does not see any change in the policies and programmes of the Government of India. In these 18 years, there were 5 Prime Ministers. First there was Congress Government headed by Mr.Narasimha Rao, then United Front Governments headed by Mr. Deve Gowda and Mr. I.K.Gujral, then BJP lead coalition Government with Mr. Vajpayee as PM and finally Congress headed coalition government of Mr. Man Mohan Singh. Each Government said that it was different from the other, but one does not see basic changes in the policies.

The same is the case with the state governments.

The reason is that in India, the bureaucracy is well established and strong. Most of the policies are initiated and decided by the officials with Ministers only approving in most cases while rejecting in a few cases. Initiative is taken by Ministers only in a very few cases. There is thus continuity in the policies and programmes of the Government, irrespective of the party in power.

Mr. Chidambaram presented budget as Finance Minister in United Front Government and also in the Congress led coalition government. He has not changed his policies and views in between. This shows that the policies of the United Front government and Congress are more or less same. The Budgets of BJP led government were not much different from United Front and Congress Governments. So it is clear that which ever government comes to power, the policies and programmes will remain without much change. Even if BJP had been in power during 2004-2009, the course of the government would not have been much different.

However, most of the people have great interest in the elections. They see in the elections, their power to choose the party to lead the government. The active members of the winning parties celebrated the victory with fireworks while those of losing parties were gloomy. But the general public were neither excited nor gloomy, The elections come and go but the government goes on as usual without much difference, irrespective of which party forms the government. There is of course room for every individual Minister to conceive original ideas and implement the same through the bureaucracy.

Perhaps this is the same in most of the democracies.