Rising costs inflating people’s woes

June 27th, 2008 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) As prices in India have hit the roof and inflation is ruling at over 13-year high, average citizens in India are ruing the squeeze in their already-hit household budgets, forcing tough measures on some issues but leaving them helpless regarding others. From higher grocery bills and the cost of canteen food to more monetary outgo towards interests on education loans and housing, people across the income spectrum are being burdened by the unrelenting rise in the cost of living.

“I’ve just sent my family back to Orissa,” said Ramakant, a chauffeur with a private company in the capital, who had to ask his wife and two children to return to his village in Orissa’s Balasore district, unable to bear their expenses in the megacity.

“I just couldn’t afford the cost of education and regular expenses in Delhi. Hopefully, the situation will be better in my village,” Ramakant added, while conceding he was missing his family.

“But do I have any option?”

The situation is no better for Ranjay Singh, a senior executive with a global software house who at one time considered himself lucky for being able to buy a well-appointed flat in Delhi. He is now hit hard by the higher mortgage on the loan.

“When I took a home loan five years ago, I was making a monthly repayment of Rs.20,200. Now, the same has gone up to Rs.24,800. But what is a double whammy for me is the tenure of the loan. Instead of 20 years originally, the tenure is for 26 years,” he said.

“This is killing. I am already burdened with high inflation we are seeing today. I don’t know where the interest rate will go now!” he rued, hoping that the latest hike in interest rates by the central bank would not result in his own loan and its tenure getting revised.

The situation has also wiped the smile off the face of Kashi Nath, a bachelor till two years ago who is now supporting his wife and a toddler, besides his parents in West Bengal, by runing an office canteen in the capital.

“Look at the price of cooking oil - it has doubled. Rice now costs Rs.34 a kg. It was Rs.22 earlier. The pulses, which I bought for Rs.32-34 a kg, now cost Rs.54-58,” he says.

So Nath, who had on earlier occassions kept his canteen rates moderate, has decided to take the only route open to him: Charge more for the meals. “I cannot run the canteen on losses. Can I? End of the day I have to run my family.”

Even for Shalini Sharma, a software engineer working in Gurgaon, who has the advantage of a decent family income thanks to good salaries for herself and her spouse, the pinch has begun to hurt.

“My monthly kitchen budget has shot up. My husband and I drive to office separately. So the hike in petrol prices is really hurting. We have also cut down on our weekend vacations. My company tells me they can do little since their margins have taken a beating too,” Sharma said.

“But everyone - my maid, the housing society and the local taxi driver - is demanding more money from me.” So Sharma’s way of maintaining her budget is: “No eating out, no movies, and no outing.”

Madhu Sinha, a teacher by profession, who has enrolled her son for a higher professional degree in media and advertising at a reputed institute, is also wondering how can she cope with the steep rise in the cost of living.

“I have to pay more interest now on the education loan that I took for my son. It has upset by budget. All this debate on inflation, double-digit numbers, when it will come down is absolutely meaningless for me,” she says.

“I don’t understand the jargon. But one thing is clear - my finances are in a mess.”

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