Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Arunachalees will agree that almost everything is more expensive in our state, compared to the neighbouring states. The cost of most items is higher by 10-15 percent. On certain items, the price difference is almost 50-200 percent! Prices of grocery items like rice, dal, atta, etc, are almost 10-15 percent higher than in Assam. Fruits and vegetables are costlier by 15-40 percent. Eggs, poultry, fish and meat are also costlier in our state by 15-30 percent. One example is mangoes, which cost Rs 70-80 per kg in Tinsukia, Margherita, Jonai, Tezpur or Harmuti, but costs between Rs 100 and 120 in Arunachal.
Construction items like cement, rods, tin sheets, pipes, etc, are also costlier. Electrical items are also costlier. For major construction work in Arunachal, almost all items are procured from Assam. Due to the high costs of items in Arunachal, many people are resorting to buying items from Assam. It is seen that many Arunachalees visit towns in Assam, like Harmuti, Lakhimpur, Silapathar, Jonai, Balipara, Tinsukia, Naharkatia, Margherita, etc, on Sundays/market days.
The only few items that are probably cheaper in Arunachal are wood, petrol/diesel and liquor!
Therefore it may be safely concluded that the average cost of living is more in Arunachal by 10-15 percent.
Items are costlier in Arunachal due to many factors. The foremost cause for costlier items is transportation cost to this remote corner. The other cause is that almost all products are imported into the state, with negligible manufacturing or production in the state itself. Even eggs, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables are imported from outside.
Another reason may be the whimsical pricing of items. Retailers routinely charge above the MRP, quoting less availability and high pricing by distributors. Many people quote higher taxes in Arunachal for the higher prices of most items.
As a result, the majority of Arunachal’s money is being channelled into Assam or other states. Every time Arunachalees buy items from Assam and other states, it helps the economy of those states. You are aware of booming townships of Tinsukia, Margherita, Naharkatia, Dibrugarh, Jonai, Silapathar, Lakhimpur, Harmuti, Tezpur, etc, booming and expanding on Arunachalee money.
In order to ensure circulation of the Arunachalees’ money within the state, one way is to reanalyze and revamp the tax regime of the state to make prices comparable with Assam. The other way is to promote and push products made in Arunachal. For example, there may be a rule for departments/organisations to compulsorily procure at least 30-50 percent of the required items from local sources. Most products sold in the state are procured from outside the state. This move will also help the local entrepreneurs, farmers and economy.
The state leadership and organisations needs to study this aspect of higher price of items in Arunachal and initiate necessary steps to reduce the flow of Arunachalees’ money to the neighbouring states. This economic drain should be curbed at the earliest. After all, Arunachal is still a backward state and it is our hard-earned money. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)