Monday, May 10, 2010
CLEANSING OF THE POOR
Delhi is already the metropolitan city where cost of living is at the highest in the country. The escalating prices of essential commodities, especially of food items, made the life miserable even for the middle class sections. Though price hike is felt across the country, delihiites suffer more than the people in any other state, as there is no proper mechanism evolved by the government to intervene in the market or to effectively check hoarding etc. For example, in Kerala, the southernmost State of India, Tur Dal was selling at Rs.35-00 while at the same period the price of the same product was between Rs.90-00 to Rs.100-00 in Delhi. Kerala is a food deficit state and totally depends on other states for its procurement of food commodities. The State Government could arrest the spiraling prices to certain extent by ensuring distribution of pulses and cereals through Public Distribution System. However, instead of taking steps to curb price hike, the Delhi government in its last Budget increased tax on almost everything. The VAT was increased from 12.5% to 20% that would further increase the prices of all commodities in the city. Subsidy on the Gas cylinder was withdrawn and CNG was brought under VAT, that was excluded previously. The ticket charges of DTC were increased by 50% and Delhi Metro too substantially increased their charges. The government justifies the additional levies on the requirement of funds towards infrastructure development for the forthcoming Common Wealth Games. A game at the expense of the life of common people!
Now the government is talking about increasing the tariff of electricity keeping in abeyance the suggestion of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission to slash the tariff in view of the surplus profit the private distribution companies made after the privatization of power sector in the State. But the State Government stand is dubious, as it only helps the private profiteers. Any elected government’s primordial duty is to protect the interest of the people who elected them to power. The Chief Minister declared that the people of Delhi are rich enough to pay any increase in the power tariff. The message is clear, she dreams of a World Class City inhabited by world class people, the wealthy who can afford its high living costs, cleansed off the poor.
The Chief Minister and the former Mayor of Delhi made public their displeasure on the increasing number of migrants in the city that they rued for the worsening civic conditions. These political leaders forget that migration from the poor rural areas is a creation of themselves. A result of the uneven development pattern, where some pockets are pampered while neglecting other areas. This has undoubtedly created unrest among sections and vested interests try to exploit the situation to their narrow political interests. Raj Thackray’s MNS and Shiv Sena built their political fiefdom raising tirade against the migrants. If the target was the South Indians in the 60s, it is now the migrants from Bihar and UP in Mumbai. However, owing to political compulsions, Shiela Dixit or national political parties like Congress and BJP cannot take an open stand as the MNS or Shiv Sena. But there are more novel ideas to chase away the poor, particularly the migrant labourers.
Migrants are the worst affected by the high living costs as they are lowest paid and without a dwelling place of their own. The rents of the houses are also subjected to periodical upward hike. Going by the current rate of increase in the cost of living in Delhi, it would soon become impossible for large sections of poor people to sustain, forcing them to return to the places they came from. Thus the ‘World Class City’ may be cleansed of the poor, leaving it exclusively for the use of the moneyed ‘World Class People’.