India Insight

The news this weekend: LPG, Kejriwal, toilets, politicians… and Somali pirates

It’s shaping up as a busy weekend for India’s politicians…

The price of LPG — liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, or cooking gas — has risen 11.42 rupees per cylinder because dealers are getting higher commissions. TV channels attacked the government because this “shocker” comes right after the imposition of a cap on subsidized cylinder sales was imposed.

Bharatiya Janata Party politician Smriti Irani said the party will hold a nation-wide protest on Oct. 12, saying the higher prices are “anti-women”. This is presumably because they do more of the daily cooking than men, whose potential inversely proportional waistline shrinkage could be in their favour.

We all know who the main attraction is on news channels nowadays: social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal. Here are the pots that he’s stirring: Accusing Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and DLF, India’s top listed real estate developer, of being involved in shady deals which could have favoured Vadra. Vadra has replied, as has the DLF. Short story: they committed no illegal acts. Protesting against higher electricity prices in New Delhi. He then restored an electricity connection himself, which of course is illegal.

Kejriwal is keeping others busy too. The BJP is supporting Kejriwal, while Congress politicians are doing their best to defend Vadra.

Meanwhile, the BJP and Congress have lashed out at rural development minister Jairam Ramesh  for his comment that there are more temples in the country than toilets (Is there a sharp and obsessive-compulsive statistician out there who can tell us if it’s true?). They’ve said he should not make such statements because they hurt “fine fabric of faith and religion” in the country.

Diesel strategy: merely old wine in new bottle?

Planning to buy a car? Seeing petrol prices head northwards, chances are high you would have changed your mind and now intend to buy a diesel-powered vehicle. That might be a smart move given the government’s reluctance to tinker with diesel prices in the face of stiff opposition. But there are plans afoot to deter you.

After considering raising diesel prices at one point, the government is now mulling a proposal of higher duty on diesel vehicles and even thinking of increasing diesel prices only for cars and sports utility vehicles (SUVs) — something that has been debated earlier.

The aim of these alternate proposals is simple — to reduce the consumption of diesel in India which would ease the strain on the government’s finances, and stop wealthy SUV owners from reaping the benefits of state subsidies.