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Indian families are battling with expansion as earnings fall

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Tea, edible oil, pulses, meat, cooking gas and services have grown by 20% -40% since the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic in early 2020 – hurting consumers while their incomes have fallen below pre-health crisis levels.

Retail prices have risen by almost 10% in the last two years compared to 8% in the previous five-and-a-half years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, according to an analysis of inflation data compiled by the Ministry of Statistics.

Modi, who is popular among voters, plans to raise import duty on more items to support local production and increase spending on long-term projects.

Reuters Graphics

Economists have blamed high taxes, a widening fiscal deficit, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) easing monetary policy and supply constraints during the epidemic for the sharp rise in prices.

The Indian government has offered little help to families without food grains for the poor.

According to official estimates, the average per capita income stood at Rs 93,973 ($ 1,258) in the current financial year ending March, down from Rs 94,566 before the epidemic.

According to a report by the Mumbai-based think tank Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate in December was 7.9%, with around 35 million people looking for work.

Meanwhile, the economy is projected to grow by 9.2% in 2021/22 after shrinking 7.3% from the previous year.

Rising import duties on hundreds of products over the past two years, global crude oil and rising commodity prices have added to the burden on households.

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In the two years ending December 2021, cooking gas prices rose 43.36%, compared to 30.68% growth in the previous five-and-a-half years, the data shows.

However, the cost of domestic electricity and education has risen slowly, reflecting a decline in economic activity and the closure of educational institutions during the epidemic.

Inflation is expected to rise further as producers move toward rising input costs as the central bank delays monetary austerity in an effort to support economic recovery.

Retail inflation accelerated to a five-month high of 5.59% in December from a year earlier, while wholesale price-based inflation, a proxy for producer prices, fell marginally to 13.56%, but remained in double digits for nine consecutive months.

“The Kovid period was a nightmare for Indian workers,” said KR Shyam Sundar, a labor economist at XLRI, Jamshedpur and author of “The Impact of Reform and Administration on Labor Rights.”

He added that families lost jobs, lost income and sharply increased prices during the epidemic.

“The RBI and the government, which have focused heavily on supporting the industry and boosting growth, should now take steps to control inflation and provide relief to families.”

($ 1 = 74.7125 Indian Rupees)

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