Rupee, petrol, and Govt lies

A woman goes to a police station to complain about her husband’s abusive behavior. She tells the duty officer, “My husband drinks every day, misbehaves with me, and sometimes even slaps me.”

“How fortunate you are!” says the officer.

The woman asks incredulously, “How?”

The officer explains, “Look, yesterday two ladies complained to us that their husbands whip and cane them. A slap once in a while is nothing in comparison!”

The Narendra Modi government’s logic on the unprecedented decline of the rupee is similar to that of the police officer’s. Yes, the rupee has fallen but so have other currencies; in fact, their fall has been steeper; therefore, the rupee is doing well. QED.

Attributing the rupee’s free fall to “the global situation,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last Wednesday emphasized that it better off as compared to other currencies. “If you look at the domestic economic situation and the global situation, there are virtually no domestic reasons which are attributable to this. The reasons are global,” he told reporters. He maintained that the rupee “has not weakened… the rupee is better-off.”

Since then, the domestic currency has even further ‘bettered’; now it is trading almost at 73 per dollar!

The fall of the rupee is directly proportional to the rise in fuel prices. Petrol prices on Tuesday crossed the Rs 90 mark. It reached Rs 90.11 per litre in Maharashtra’s Parbhani, a new high in the country. Diesel prices also soared from Rs 77.92 to Rs 78.06.

A day earlier, as the Opposition parties a countrywide a Bharat Bandh, the Bharatiya Janata Party had called the increase in petroleum products as a “momentary difficulty” because of—you guessed it right—an international crisis.

Anything bad, you see, happens because of external factors; anything good because of the government, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

International crude prices are high today, costing us above $75 per barrel, but during the first two years of the Modi regime it was much less; for quite some time, it was below $50. In that period, the government didn’t reduce the prices of petrol and diesel, choosing instead to fleece the man in the street and calling it good fiscal management. Excise duties from the petroleum sector went up from Rs 77,982 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 242,691 crore in 2016-17.

That was tolerable because the imported crude was cheaper, but now that imports are costing much more, the retail prices have gone skywards. The arguments offered by ministers and BJP spokespersons—government is spending money in infrastructure, welfare, etc.—are increasingly becoming more obnoxious by the day.

The achhe din are nowhere in sight.