“We have the mandate to tackle inflation at all costs, these are urgent steps to needed to protect the common man,” remarked a senior bureaucrat in the finance ministry. “The government has made the right decision,” commented Sonal Kookari, the head of a prominent NGO, she has taken up several pro-common man measures, usually by taking them to the judicial system.
“Earlier I thought we can get things done only through PIL, but this government is listening to the needs of the common man. We already have put price controls on education, pharmaceuticals, telecoms, energy and other major industry. It is time that all professions and products come under the system, including the legal profession, fighting PILs is not cheap.”
When asked about what would happen to India industrial growth a government spokesperson angrily shot back, “We are here to serve the people of India, not the industrialists of India, we are doing what the people have elected us to do.” When additionally confronted with the news that all the major chambers of commerce were organizing a hunger strike he remarked, “Good for them. Those fat cats need to lose some weight. They should just concentrate on exports and worry about earning forex for the country.”
This newspaper tried to get comments before the publishing deadline from the major business groups in India but were unable to on account of them all being on flights to Dubai and Singapore. The government suspended all stock exchange trading for one week to allow a smooth transition to the new system.
The BJP and other opposition parties cheered the government on, trying to take credit for their actions. “It was under us that proper and effective price controls first came up,” a BJP spokesman said. “You forget that it was the Congress who opened up the economy in 1991 leading to all these problems.”
The CPM reacted on a hurried statement posted on its website, “This is what we have been saying all along, the planning commission needs to stop planning, and take direct control of the economy. The proletariat will only prosper when the government keeps strict control over rampantly corrupt industrialists. Just look at what happened with NSEL.”
Implementation details of the new policy are coming out slowly. It has been confirmed that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be renamed to the Ministry of Commerce and Common Man Welfare.
“We are not fools,” remarked a senior bureaucrat in the ministry. “We have met and taken comments from the industry. This entire process has been a consultative one where everyone’s voice was heard. We are in fact working to amend the law to ensure price controls retrospectively from 1962 onwards. We predict a one time windfall for our social programs by collecting on now illegal back profits of companies.”
Rohan Topiwalla, an owner of a small retail shop was happy with the measure. “We retailers are always for reducing prices for the consumer. This will only increase our sales. Our union has successfully negotiated with the government to ensure our retail margins remain intact and the costs are passed on to the manufacturers.” Keshab Raj Dutta a local Delhi lawyer shrugged off the fact that his legal services would also come under price control. “Ninety-percent of my clients pay me in cash anyway, so this new law will not affect our profession that much.”
The government is now seeking what it calls market friendly mechanisms for price control, setting the average price of all items at first as the price of the lowest priced product in the market, and then setting a cap of price increase each year by only 10%. The government spokesperson continued, “This is what we did for education, and look what an open and transparent non-profit market this has become. We also did this for pharmaceuticals and there has been no reduction in quality of product at all. The lowest priced product in India is also a quality product. You should take pride in our industrial capability.”