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February 15, 2020

Hoarding and cards

Editorial

 
February 15, 2020

During the ongoing high inflation in the country, all the repeated announcements and talk about ‘hoarding and profiteering’ have not provided much respite to the people of this country. These repeated iterations are not sufficient to cater to the needs of all those who lack resources. In a recent development, the Punjab government has announced that it seized over 4,000 ton of sugar from godowns. According to reports, on February 10, over a thousand raids were conducted across Punjab, in which over 82,000 bags of sugar; 10,000 wheat bags; 2,000 bags of pulses; 7,00 rice bags; and over 2,000 ghee tins have been confiscated. Despite these announcements, according to reports, essential items such as ghee and sugar are being sold at higher rates per kilogram than the previous prices.

It is good that the government has announced a monthly subsidy worth two billion rupees to Utility Stores for five months. The government has also reiterated its plans to introduce ration cards before Ramazan. The plan to set up 2,000 Youth Stores has also been unveiled and promises are being made to establish cash-and-carry stores in big cities. All this sounds pretty on paper, but if you look at the details, or try to gauge the success of the PTI government’s previous promises you will likely get a rude shock. First, the government should have made sure that inflation is controlled. The poor of this country deserve at least some relief from Utility Stores, though the quality of food items remains below par. Second, if the crackdown on sugar mills and godowns is as successful as the government wants us to believe, the sugar prices should have come down rather than going up.

All this makes the situation more disturbing and there are more questions than answers. The ration card exercise is bound to create more problems than solutions. It appears that the government is going into this adventure headlong without any proper planning or considerations of the implications of this step. Up to the end of the third quarter of the 20th century, ration cards were quite common. But in the last decades of the previous century they were abandoned as a relic of the past; now resurrecting this zombie will just haunt the poor of this country. There is no need to retrieve something that has been consigned to the dustbin of history decades ago. Instead, it will be much better if the current government focuses on reducing inflation, job creation, and skills development.