Saturday, April 05, 2008

RISING PRICES AND THE MIDDLE CLASS To eat or not to eat, that is the question

GANGTOK, April 4: The pinch felt by the middle class due to inflation and increasing rise in the prices of essential commodities across the country has not left Sikkim alone either.
Today, inflation shot to an all-time high of 7 percent in the country.
SIKKIM EXPRESS today spoke to a cross-section of people in the market and tried to get their reactions on the rising prices and the dent it has made into the monthly household budget. A large chunk of the consumers comprised of those belonging to the working middle class of the society.
“It is impossible to manage the monthly household expenses any more. Even with two working members in our family of four, we have to be very careful with our spendings,” says Sangeeta, who runs a small business. Her husband works in private company. Both of them bring home about Rs. 10,000 together. With two school-going children, every month is a trial by fire for her.
While the prices of almost all essential commodities have risen over the weeks, it is Mustard oil that has dearer with a hike of Rs 10 per liter.
As per the notification issued by the Department of Food and Civil supplies and Consumers Affairs Department dated March 12, 2008 the rate of one-liter mustard oil is Rs 94 per kg while earlier it was Rs 84 per kg.
The price of vegetable ghee (hydrogenated oils like Dalda) comes second with Rs 82 per kg followed by refined edible oil at Rs 87 per kg.
There has been marginal increase in the prices of other essential commodities like various Dals, rice, flour (Atta and Maida), Suji and Sugar as well.
Mridula Tamang, a house wife from Sichey, is already feeling pinch and finds it difficult to run her household with her husband’s meager income. “I just hope and pray that the State Government will do something to bring down the prices,” she says.
The story is the same with fruits and vegetables.
The vegetable hawkers in the Lall Market here say they are compelled to sell the vegetables keeping a margin of Rs 2 due to higher wholesale prices.
“Even with Rs 500, you hardly get a bag full of vegetables these days. It’s depressing as well as frightening,” says Hari Chettri, a government employee.
However, the whole sellers and vendors say that the change in the rates of essential commodities is a regular feature.
“We can’t presume what happens with the prices every fortnight; it’s very unpredictable,” says Ramlal Sharma, one of a whole seller.
Fruits like apples and oranges have seen a rise of Rs 5 per kg recently. The prices of the essential commodities per kg as per the latest notification of the Department are:

Mustard oil: Rs 94 per kg
Vegetable oil: Rs 82
Refined oil: Rs 87
Masur Dal: Rs 44
Mung Dal: 45
Chana Dal: 40
Arhar Dal: 46
Atta: 17
Maida : 18
Suji: 18
Rice (Mansury): Rs 15
Sugar: Rs 19.