Mid-summer, '98. Prices of food items are going through the roof. Potatoes up four-fold, tomatoes five-fold, lemons six-fold, coriander ten-fold, culminating in the onion crisis towards the year-end. Economists warn of impending stagflationóa situation where rising prices could send an already-dismal economy down the tube. The middle class does what it canóboycott the onion and vote the bjp in Delhi and Rajasthan out of power.
Mid-summer, '99. The inflation barometeróthe wholesale price index (wpi)ótakes another unprecedented swing. The official rate touches a 17-year low of 1.83 per cent and analysts see a decline to 1 per cent.
Many see this as scary. 'We need stable prices. This isn't a nirvana-like state of low prices, low unemployment with steady growth. Rather, prices are falling in a situation of slack demand, incomes and investment. This is a symptom of the recession. It sucks the economy in a spiral,' says Wilima Wadhwa, executive director, Society for Economic Research and Financial Analysis.