Bummers of cigarettes typically have matches that smokers occasionally fall short of. But in these inflationary times, smokers might start bumming matches as well. The matchbox is now set to scale highs of Rs 1 a box that might well send many Indians below the poverty line. Look at the speed with which it has priced itself out of the reach of aam admi. Fifty-eight years ago, it was sold for just five paise. Two decades later, this rate trebled to 15 paise. But what happened thereafter is tragic. Every 14 years, the matchbox started doubling in price. Which means that by 2022, it will be a big-ticket luxury at Rs 2 a box.
How did matters come such a pass? Surely, health minister Anbumani Ramadoss isn’t responsible for every thing that has gone wrong here. The fact that the latest price revision to Rs 1 a box will be effective by end-2008 is due to what bespectacled economists term “input cost escalation”. Manufacturers tried to cushion the impact through mechanisation.
But such efforts have come to naught as costlier raw materials “have eaten into the benefits of mechanisation” argue the manufactures. Bummers now might have only cigarettes that those with matches occasionally fall short of!