So how do we simulate an environment for engineers to innovate? How do we kickstart the companies into trying to innovate? The answer is as simple as it is straightforward: Remove the Petrol Subsidies and add a Petrol Tax.
It is a bold thing to say. But to give you a proper framework into just the magnitude of the things that we are dealing with, here’s our annual oil import bill:
$ 50 Billion – a year (Rs. 2.5 lakh crores – a year!)
We spend the above amount EVERY YEAR trying to buy enough petrol for our nation. Just how much money is $ 50 Billion one may ask? To give you an account of just what it means, here’s a list of some of the things we can build/buy if we save that money (Note- we can pursue any one of these projects)
• 162 IIT’s - a year!
• 291 AIIMS - a year!
• 24 lakh primary schools - a year!
• 16 Delhi Metro like projects - a year!
• Double our Defence budget, double our Health Budget, send 10 Chandrayaan’s to moon and still have money left to construct 3 Olympic sized stadiums.
I find the last fact particularly startling. We can double our defence budget, double our health budget with the snap of a finger and still have money left to do other things!
And therefore, as the cliché goes, we must act as tough citizens and send a message across to our MPs, “that you can take tough decisions, we will support you.”
Already the government was in two minds regarding the roll back of the petrol prices. If your government cannot even stand by its decision to increase the price of petrol by a rupee or two, then you can be sure the option of complete removal of petrol subsidies is something your government does not even know exists.
But it is easier said than done. Because any MP who gets up in Parliament and proposes such a measure will be drowned by the opposition voices saying, “You want to raise the petrol prices and add a petrol tax! Are you out of your mind? As it is the Indian people are burdened with too many taxes and now you want to add another one. Once the price of petrol goes up, the cost of transportation goes up and once the cost of transportation goes up the price of everything goes up – including essential commodities. No, no we cannot have this tax.”
And there is only one answer to that. You say, “You know what friend, let’s get one thing straight. As far as taxes are concerned we are both on the same side. We are both paying taxes. While I am paying taxes to the Indian government, you are paying taxes to the Saudi Arabian government so that they can build more of their palaces. And I have just this inclination – that I want my taxes to go into building more Indian schools, Indian hospitals, Indian roads and Indian bridges.”
If that argument does not win, nothing will. To understand the above point all you have to do is look at the spectacular growth of the Arab countries. Where do you think they got all that money from?
Ultimately, I am reminded of that famous saying, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” We know the price of petrol will go up in the future whether we like it or not. We also know that India will be among the hardest hit countries by Global Warming. Why not make the most of it?