In the business of measuring inflation, what you see may not be what you get. While there is cheer about the overall wholesale price-based inflation has dipped below 3 per cent compared with levels last Diwali, the details tell a different story, viewed with actual retail prices for a basket of commodities that a typical urban middle-class family in India consumes.
HT reporters collected the retail prices of 25 unbranded commodities in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Chandigarh, and Lucknow for October 2006 and October 2007. Depending on the local eating habits, different kitchen baskets were formed for each of these centres to study comparable situations.
For instance, a family would consume about 25 kg of rice or atta (wheat flour), 2 kg of maida, 2 kg of tea leaf, 4 kg of sugar, 1 kg of suji (semolina) and maida and 4 kg of sugar. But in Kolkata, rice is the staple
Based on such an estimate, the price rise is the highest in Kolkata at around 23 per cent as the price of rice (parboiled) went up from Rs 10 to Rs 18 per kg over the year, straining the budgets of predominantly rice eating families in the metro. Compared with that in Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow consumers are paying 13 per cent, 12 per cent and 14 per cent more respectively for a similar basket of items.
Cooking oils and pulses
In cooking medium, Kolkata, where mustard oil is the key commodity, fared better as the price remained unchanged. A family of five normally consumes five litres of cooking oil (groundnut oil, mustard oil and vanaspati). The cooking medium budget has risen by 26 per cent in Patna followed by Delhi and Chandigarh at 23 and 22 per cent
For pulses, assuming consumption of 5 kg of moong, masoor, tur and rajmah put together, the budget has gone up by 19 per cent in Patna and Kolkata, followed by 15 and 14 per cent in Lucknow and Delhi, and 10 per cent in Mumbai. In Chandigarh, the amount spent on pulses has come down by 2 per cent for a family of five, as moong dal is now cheaper by Rs 7 a kg.
The prices of potato, onion and tomato are hitting the roof. Assuming that a family consumes in a month about 8 kg of onion, 12 kg of potato and 4 kg of tomato, the hike is a staggering 78 per cent in Kolkata followed by 64 per cent in Patna and 60 per cent in Lucknow. Onion prices in Kolkata have gone up from Rs 6 a kg to Rs 20 a kg.
Chandigarh is the only metro where the amount spent on fruits has gone down as apples have become cheaper by Rs 10 a kg and bananas are still sold at the same rate. By conservative estimates a family of five consumes about 4 dozen bananas, 5 kg of apples and 4 kg of papayas. Based on this, the rise in monthly budgets has been the highest in Patna at 38 per cent followed by Lucknow at 26.5 per cent. In Delhi the increase is around 11 per cent, in Mumbai around 5.26 per cent and in Kolkata around 4.21 per cent.
Milk prices have increased in all the five metros except Kolkata. The spike is highest in Patna and Chandigarh where it has gone up by Rs 4 a litre. In Delhi and Lucknow it has increased by Rs 2 a litre and in Mumbai by one rupee a litre.
(With inputs from Naresh Kamath in Mumbai, Santosh Chowdhury in Lucknow, Mukesh Kumar Mishra in Patna, Swarleen Kaur in Chandigarh and Sulagna Sengupta in Kolkata)