Well done, Manmohan, Mugambo khush hua. Very khush!

Congress Party's aam admi might be complaining about the fuel price hikes, but G20 likes it

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | June 28, 2010




"We welcome the work of finance and energy ministers in delivering implementation strategies and time-frames, based on national circumstances, for the rationalisation and phase out over the medium term of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption..." said the G20 declaration on Sunday after its latest meeting in Canada.

Shorn of all the bureaucratese, it just meant, at least in the context of India: "Thank you Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for raising the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG."

Compliments to Manmohan Singh were, of course, in order, because in the G20 meeting at Pittsburg (USA) last Septmember, member countries including India had committed to phasing out fuel subsidies. Manmohan Singh had delivered on a promise to the global leadership just before taking that flight for this year's conference. That kind of commitment was, obviously, going to be much appreciated.

While praise for our Prime Minister should make us feel proud, there is, of course, a very valid reason why our chests are not pumped up. The steep hike in fuel prices comes at a time when food inflation continues to be close to 17 per cent, and has been there for a long time. The aam admi is naturally worried that this hike in fuel prices will fuel a hike in prices across the board.

This lack of enthusiasm in the common man should be extremely irritating for the good doctor, hailed world over as a great economist--he even told the G20 countries how to manage their economies and everybody listened--never mind that he doesn't quite seem to know how to control prices in India! There are two simple reasons for the distrust back home. The explanation given to the people here was that the prices needed to be hiked because the "huge under-recoveries" were imperiling the oil companies.

Now look at the figures. Indian Oil Corporation registered a meagre net profit of Rs 10,000 crore in the just ended financial year and ONGC did even worse with a net profit of Rs 16, 767 crore!

The second reason we can't trust the prime minister's assertions is that this is not the first time he has been eager to please the West. The Nuclear Civil Liabilities Bill was chewed upon and spat out by the Opposition in March 2010 when it was introduced. It seemed like the Opposition would rally and prevent the bill from being introduced. So it was hastily withdrawn with the promise to make amends to address the Opposition's concerns.

That was in March. In May, on the last of the budget session, Manmohan's government sprang a surprise by introducing the Bill again. Without changing a comma. By now the government had cut all sorts of deals with Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad and Mayawati by flashing a few CBI cases in their faces. Why would a Prime Minister known for his integrity cut such deals? Because the first ever Indo-US strategic dialogue was scheduled within a week (early June), and India was eager to show "movement" on the Nuke Bill because the US is ever so keen to help India in its hour of energy crisis.

You might say these are just coincidences. But why do these coincidences happen to be against our interests? Is it because, nesting within Reformist Manmohan is a serial pleaser of the West?

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