Diesel prices, moral crisis

An elegy written in my brand new car

akash

Akash Deep Ashok | January 18, 2013



Six months since I started driving a diesel hatchback — feeling proud and smarter than the rest every time I am at a fuel station — I am suddenly told by everyone that decontrol of diesel prices is good for the economy. It was necessary. And maybe they are right.

I am told that diesel deregulation would also augur well for the current account deficit. It offers a possibility of rationalisation in crude imports in the country. It strengthens the Reserve Bank of India’s hand in reducing rates — the central bank has been highlighting for some time the need to reduce fiscal deficit. Although inflation will rise on account of higher diesel prices, that should be offset by the lower deficit.

I am told that the move will improve the market sentiment, a must for reviving the economy, and will also mean a pruning of the fiscal deficit. Together, the two will send a positive signal to rating agencies.

I flip fast and furious through reams of pink newspapers to find an ally in my crusade against crude taking north but find none. I find some solace in a few political parties announcing bandhs against the price hike but their reasons are diagonally opposed to mine. They talk about the proverbial common man who has since acquired a cult status in the political arena, so much so that he is difficult to identify now — the aam aadmi, the mango man.

The Congress, of course, is the party of the aam aadmi. When the BJP calls for a bandh against diesel price hike, it insists to be espousing his cause. And Arvind Kejriwal has named his party after this man. But do not confuse this man with those crowds of “dented, painted” girls braving water cannons at India Gate. He is not among them. He is mythical. He lives wherever.

And then I read former finance minister and parliamentary standing committee on finance chairman Yashwant Sinha saying that the government’s idea of taxing the super-rich was bad because it would end up taxing the honest and salaried more. “If the super rich are considered to be those with Rs 10 lakh taxable income in a year then you are reaching out to the upper crust of the middle class and not really reaching out to high net worth individuals (HNIs),” he says.

So now I begin to get it. Maybe you should, too. We are certainly not the common man. We are the super rich.

And this rich man, when he thought of acting smart and shelled out an additional Rs 2.5 lakh to buy a diesel variant because the worm of petrol prices on the graphs achieved incredible speed, had to be like this. The salesman who sold me this white elephant (by the way the colour is intoxicantly named ‘symphony silver’) justified the additional Rs 2.5 lakh saying the government taxes diesel variants more so that it also earns while you save all the years you choose to drive this.

Kinda true. But then the government suddenly got smarter and I’ll now pay more on the diesel as well.

But the religion is with the government. The kingdom of heaven shall always belong to the common man (politically corrected version). And the rich, in my case maybe the super rich, stand less chances of entering the kingdom of gods than a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). So have I got to reconcile with my costly dud and look for a camel instead?

 

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