Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Will you Give It Up?

The GIVEITUP advertisement screams out loud at every other traffic light, bus stop or fuel station. All those happy and proud faces of different communities from seemingly well-to-do classes throw an emotionally charged thought at the onlookers. The hoardings are right in your face. But not one hoarding bothers to explain the scheme well. Where is the money going? How much are we really saving? Are we calculating the advertisement costs? Can you really help a Below Poverty Line family cook a meal with your given up subsidy? What exactly are the benefits given to such families through your share? Are there any waivers on installation, processing fee? Are the re-fills offered at concessional rates to poor families? In what sense are we or the government helping? None of these questions are clarified. Even the Bollywood biggie on pleads that we Give Up the subsidy because, ‘giving makes you feel good’. Really? These advertisements could have done so much better to explain the issue rather than making it emotionally overwhelming but logically drained.  

As a matter of fact, a fall in international crude oil prices should bring down the prices of petrol, diesel and subsidized LPG gas; yet, there seems no change in their prices. Instead, there has been steady growth in prices of commodities during the then UPA as well as today’s elected NDA government.  In addition, government is confusing people by not making firm decisions on this issue. In December 2015, Petroleum Minister hastily decided to discontinue LPG subsidy for those who annually earn 10 lakh and more; after two months’ lapse, in February, petroleum ministry felt a need to revise the said decision and directed state-run oil marketing companies (OMCs) to insert “suitable question in the automated interactive voice response/SMS platforms for ascertaining the income status of the consumers” as well as during phone calls for refills, which is to be initially operationalized in metro cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru etc. On the other hand, IVR platforms for booking LPG is not user friendly as there are many complaints being registered that commoners unknowingly pressed 0 (zero) on their handsets and Gave Up their subsidies for the whole year, making it altogether a complicated process.

Interestingly, the apex court in its interim order has clarified non-requirement of Aadhar card to get government subsidies. Despite the order, officials are forcing applicants to furnish Aadhar details for availing subsidies on their LPG cylinder, thus indirectly forcing them to give up availing the subsidy.

In India, where citizens try to make ends meet, amidst the misery of a multitude of taxes, the Give It Up campaign seems like a sheer emotional atyachar, expecting everyone to be troubled about others’ kitchen and gas. Every kitchen has its own issues to worry about. Dal, onion, paneer, milk; with everything going beyond budget one wonders what to cook with LPG?