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Runaway inflation


Business Standard  |  New Delhi 

Given the panic in the political class over the rising inflation, not surprisingly, most regional language newspapers also played up stories relating to this. While detailed stories on the government's attempts to control prices of steel and cement were carried on the business/inside pages of most newspapers, those in the north especially played up Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi's remarks on the impact of inflation on the recent state elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand.
Mahengayee mar gayee (inflation killed us) was Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika's lead story and others like Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran had similar stories displayed prominently on the front page over the past few days. Indeed, Jagran's Budget coverage had a front page anchor story on how Chidambaram had lowered excise and customs duties in a bid to curtail prices. The paper also had a lead article during the week arguing that failure to contain inflation would also cast its shadow on the elections in Uttar Pradesh. Bhaskar carried Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath's statement on how the government might ban exports of cement if prices didn't come under control "" this was the lead story on the business pages. On another day, the business page's lead was about the profiteering by the cement industry.
In Andhra Pradesh, most Telugu newspapers downplayed the post-Budget developments, including the Sensex crashing and the domestic steel and cement manufacturers announcing price hikes. Leading Telugu dailies Eenadu, Vaartha and Andhra Jyothi relegated the news on inflation to the inside business pages, as the second or third lead.
On Saturday, Eenadu splashed a story on "sugar companies stocks turn bitter" as the lead on its business page with a table of various sugar companies' scrips and their performance during the last 52 weeks. On Tuesday, Andhra Jyothi's second lead story was on a virtual cricket stock exchange ( developed jointly by the students of IIM-Ahmedabad and IIT-Rourkela through which cricket enthusiasts can trade stocks on their favourite cricketing icons. The only business story that appeared on page one during the week was in Vaartha.On Saturday, the newspaper carried a lead story on its front page on the rise in chicken and egg prices, linking this to the forward trading of maize.
The markets reaction to the Budget and cement firms hiking prices in defiance of the government received very little attention in the Kannada press. These issues were covered as routine developments in the business section of the newspapers. There were plenty of local issues and they were covered extensively by all the leading Kannada dailies like Vijaya Karnataka, Praja Vani and Kannada Prabha.
The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's final award continued to dominate the news in Karnataka. Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's attempts to find a solution to the issue by convening a meeting of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu MPs failed miserably and it received front page coverage in all the newspapers. In their editorials, they lambasted the Centre for "continuing" to "neglect" Karnataka. Protests and demonstrations against the award continue to be the order of the day with all newspapers reporting them.
Unlike the English-language pink papers, though, none of the regional language papers criticised the government's attempts at price controls as ill conceived "" indeed, most lauded the attempts to curb "black marketers and hoarders".

First Published: Fri, March 09 2007. 00:00 IST