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Govt steps in, but prices continue to kill

With inflation touching an all-time high, Delhiites are worried that their monthly budget will, once again, go for a toss, reports Avishek G Dastidar.
Hindustan Times | By Avishek G Dastidar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 12:14 AM IST

With inflation touching an all-time high as per government data released on Friday, Delhiites are worried that their monthly budget will, once again, go for a toss.

“By the time authorities woke up to the situation, it was too late. Rates of rice and pulses are still abnormally high,” said Gautam Kumar, a government official. The Kumars, a family of five living in RK Puram, had to stretch their monthly budget for consumables to Rs 10,000 two months ago. “Traders will hike prices again and branded products will come with new price tags in the next lot. That is how it always is,” said Kumar.

Suraj Kumar, a retail trader in RK Puram, said items are yet to recover from the surge in prices that occurred earlier this year. Some manufacturers of packaged items have even decreased their quantity to retain the same MRP. “A popular brand of tea was Rs 52 for 250 grams a month ago. In the fresh lot, the price has remained the same but quantity had decreased to 243 grams. Similarly, a brand of washing powder, which cost Rs 21 per 1 kg, is now available at the same price but at a reduced quantity of 700 grams,” he said.

The recent move to ban export of rice to ensure adequate supply at domestic markets has not helped. “Fine quality rice is Rs 26 per kg, up from Rs 23 on March 22,” said RK Sharma, spokesperson of Kendriya Bhandar outlets.

Edible oil has been the only relief. “Oil price has come down because there was an excise duty exemption recently,” said a spokesperson of Subhiksha retail chain. Mustard oil, which had shot up to Rs 95 per litre, has come down to Rs 88.

More importantly, how much inflation will hit you depends on where you stay. A quick look at prices at different parts of Delhi revealed surprising discrimination. For instance, fine quality Permal rice at RK Puram is Rs 20, at prime East Delhi retail stores, it is Rs 24, while in Rohini, it is around Rs 21.

So, will price rise be back to haunt homemakers soon? “There will not be an immediate impact on fast moving consumer goods because they always have a 30-day inventory. But there could be a difference in the next cycle,” said the Subhiksha spokesperson.

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