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Punjab pulse: Prices zoom
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Patiala/Fatehgarh Sahib/Ludhiana, April 5
The development rhetoric of the UPA regime has hit a roadblock with the surging prices of essential commodities. This has also derailed the household budget of the common man.

Ask Ranjit Kaur, a housewife in Sidhwan Khurd, who is now forced to serve only rotis and salt to her four children and husband, as she can no longer afford to buy pulses or vegetables. For this woman’s family, pulses and vegetables have become a delicacy, to be savoured only twice a week. Her husband, Rajinder Singh, is a labourer and earns Rs 80 a day, which is just enough to help the family have simple rotis for food.

Even as the Government of India is taking several measures to control inflation, which is at a three-year high of 7 per cent, thousands of households are now finding it difficult to have two proper meals a day. According to the government’s own admission, this high inflation rate is mainly because of a high rise in food items (over 4.5 per cent). As a result, not just the pulses and cereals, but the fruits and vegetables also are no longer within the reach of the common man.

Can a person with a daily income of Rs 80 afford to buy mustard oil, which is now selling at Rs 70 a litre, asks Uma Shankar, a resident of Jalalpur village in Patiala district. A migrant labour from Uttar Pradesh, he says that he moved to Punjab to escape poverty. “But all pulses, cereals and vegetables have become so expensive in the past two months, that all my earnings go into buying food for my family of four. Till last year, I managed to save Rs 500 a month, which I would send back to my aged parents. But with tomatoes at Rs 30 a kg, moong dal at Rs 50 a kg and masar dal at Rs 52 a kg, I can no longer save any money,” he says.

Agrees Parkash Singh, an employee at a dhaba in Sardarnagar village near Mandi Gobindgarh, “Though I had asked my employer to increase my wages this year, he is unable to do so as the dhaba is also running into losses because of the price rise of food items. For almost a month now, I have now been taking the grocery from the village shop on credit, even as I have asked my wife to cook vegetable or dal only once a day. But I do not know how I will be able to return the money," he says.

It is not just the price of pulses and vegetables that have shot up. Though the government has imposed duty cuts on edible oils and curbs on export of basmati and non-basmati rice, it has only led to a marginal fall in their prices.

Rajinder Verma, a grocery shop owner in Mullanpur Dakha, says that though the prices of rice and edible oils have come down marginally after the curbs were imposed earlier this week, their prices are still 15-40 per cent higher than their prices last year. Jaswinder Kaur, a housewife in Jagraon, says that though the essential commodity prices are going up, the income of people in the lower income group have remained stagnant. "If prices continue to rise, we will be pushed into the below poverty line category," she rues.



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