The Fix

Oct 03 2013, 19:21 IST
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SummaryA ceiling on all price hikes, ordering firms to supply to the poor—why didn’t anyone think of this before?

In hindsight, the solutions were staring us in the face, it is embarrassing no one thought of them before. Can’t get to a good college? Just reserve some of the seats in the existing ones, as chief minister Sheila Dikshit is now proposing in the run-up to the Delhi elections—keep 68% of seats in 28 Delhi University colleges for Delhi’s citizens, she’s saying. The BJP’s chief ministerial hopeful Vijay Goel, in turn, is saying this was his demand that Dikshit is now appropriating. In Andhra Pradesh, the government housing corporation has come out with a tender for cement for low-cost housing asking firms to supply it cheap by booking expenses as part of their mandatory CSR—given India Inc’s FY13 profits of R4 lakh crore (for a sample of 2,287 listed companies), that’s a tidy bonanza to be got of the poor. In the case of the pharmaceuticals sector, similarly, around a third of production is under some form of price control or the other.

Why not just extend this to other sectors? The poor are hit by the high price of onions, why not bring onions under price control? And surely Maruti can be told to supply cheaper cars under a right-to-CSR Bill? Party poopers will talk of the supply response, of how pharmaceutical producers will lower production in the face of too many controls, of how an RIL will invest in US shale if Indian gas prices aren’t raised. That’s possible, but why not take away their passports or, in the spirit of Indo-US collaboration, ask President Obama to not allow Mukesh Ambani buy assets in the US?

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