Friday, January 30, 2009

Bombay 1974 Mumbai 2009- The cost of 'Living'

1974 was the year I started my formal employment. 1974 was also a year in which there was world wide depression. 1974 was the year when the Middle Eastern countries got control of the oil companies, which till then were majority owned by foreigners. As a result, oil prices spiked up nearly four fold leading to a depression. There was price control on oil in the USA. In India, jobs were hard to come by. However, by then, Indira Gandhi had created the PSU banks, which became one of the best employment opportunities. Mumbai life was tough, but still fun. In the private sector, jobs were predominantly got through influence. Let me try and pull out some numbers from my memory and place it alongside today’s prices:

(all figures in rupees)
1974 2009 change

Starting salary of a bank clerk --------- 500-------8000----- 16X
Cost of a thali in an udipi restaurant ----- 1.50 ------30.00---- 20X
A cup of tea at an Udipi---------------------0.20------ 8.00----- 40X
Taxi meter fall ------------------------------2.00------13.00----- 7X
Petrol per litre------------------------------17.00-----45.00----- 2.5X
Movie ticket at Sterling-------------------- 3.50 ----150.00----- 40X
Rice per kg--------------------------------- 2.00-------30.00------15X
Bombay Poona Deccan Queen Ticket----- 7.50-------90.00------12X
Cost of a haircut--------------------------- 2.00-------70.00------35X
Auto rickshaw min fare--------------------1.00---------9.00-------9X
Vadapav ------------------------------------0.25--------6.00-------24X
Income tax exemption limit--------------- 5K ---------150K------30X
Gold (per 10 grammes)--------------------500-------13800------28X
Penguin paperback novel------------------3.00-------150 --------50X
Rupees per US dollar----------------------7.75---------49 ---------6X

Flat in Goregaon (per sq ft) 80 7000 90X

In 1974, Indira Gandhi was boss. Today, Sonia Gandhi is boss!!

Even in those days owning a house was beyond the means of the average person in Mumbai. It continues to do so. The demand has been created by a class of super earners who have been spawned by the burgeoning financial services and other service sectors. Since the supply of flats in Mumbai is a limited one (do not include the outlying areas) the average mumbaikar has been outpriced by the super earners.

Are we better off today?
Yes, if you have your house in a decent location. If not, you will be struggling all your life and have nothing to show at the end of your working life. In those days, housing loans were not available, unless your employer gave you one. Today, the generosity of the bankers makes it possible for one to think about buying a house. Other than that, the only thing that has become cheaper is money. Too much of it going round and a few grabbing most of it. Yes, we have better infrastructure and cheaper communication methods, but beyond that the grind of the mumbaikar continues.

"Who is secure in all his basic needs? Who has work, spiritual care, medical care, housing, food, occasional entertainment, free clothing, free burial, free everything? The answer might be nuns and monks, but the standard reply is 'prisoners'"
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

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