New Delhi, Oct 19: Diwali, which is just a little more than a week away, may not have the same glitter and boisterousness that it is known for, with the economic crisis and fears of terrorism acting as a dampner on the festival of lights.
The tumbling stock markets and the slowdown in economic activity, accompanied by worries of corporate profits being impacted by these, have dampened the spirits of the business community.
The common man reels under the pressure of continued high prices, with inflation rate refusing to sober down. The government now having taken a U-turn on policies of easing liquidity is the mirror opposite of tight money policy that it was pursuing to control prices.
Notwithstanding the tall claims of the government that inflation control is a high priority on its agenda, the government faced with a global slowdown and liquidity crunch plus an industrial recesssion at home is left with no option but to give primacy to tackling these issues first and foremost.
Corporate gifts is a culture that India is known for. It has much to do with the licence-permit raj, but the practice flourishes even in the liberalised era.
Perhaps old habits die hard or perhaps liberalisation has not yet taken deep roots. Whatever be the truth, few corporates will dare move away from it.
There is an old proverb that money makes the mare go around.
The corporate sector's largesse may thus be under pressure given the realities of the economic situation.
The only silver lining is more money in the hands of government employees, thanks to the Sixth Pay Commission Report. New gotten money has a psychology of its own, with people initially becoming more liberal in their spending. The effect often wears out after a while. This is not a leaf from orthodox economics, but a broad understanding of popular consumption behaviour.
The middle class, which now has children whose salary matches or exceeds that of their parents, also spend much more. Again, the theory of new found money plays a role. The lid has been lifted.
Witness this in a popular departmental store.
Often in places like Bangalore and Hyderabad, the clothes and luxury goods stores, are frequented by the youth. But this culture has now been there for some years.
An ASSOCHAM survey released recently brought out that fear of terror attacks has changed the pattern of shopping giving boost to e-shopping, but destroying the livelihood of footpath sellers. Apart from other festivals that this season is known for, the study said Diwali and Christmas will also be affected. The study said e-shopping will go up by a whopping 180 per cent to reach the formidable figure of Rs 15,000 crore up from Rs 5,500 crore.
A series of terror attacks has gripped cities like Delhi, where many lost their lives, as well as some other commercial hubs.
The fact that important places where public comes out in large numbers were selected for terror bombings has left the shops, restaurants and bars with thinner crowds. One does not know when and where the next place will be for terrorists to attack.
The study says in October-November last year, shopkeepers in major hubs of economic activities effected sales to the extent of Rs 5,500 crore using the e-shopping mode.
Another startling fact brought out by the study is that white goods, silver and bullion trade will not be as impressive as it was last year on account of smaller discounts being offered by consumer durables manufactures, rising prices and the general dampening of spirits resulting from death and destruction caused by the terror attacks.
The study revealed that e-shopping will grow phenomenally in metros as well as large townships including Lucknow, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Cochin, Chennai, Udaipur and Jaipur.
For the purpose of the study, the industry chamber took the feedback from traders all over the country, especially in large towns.
The ASSOCHAM study further said most of the e-shoppers are satisfied with this experience of purchasing, which will result in the multiplicity of the buyers as assured supplies are guaranteed, in which quality and quantities are never compromised.
Other benefits of e-shopping included home delivery of products which saves time, round the clock shopping with ease and availability for product comparisons.
While these factors may affect big cities and urban areas, there is little that has changed in rural India, where gaiety and fervour at Diwali are still the order of the day. There is generally a kind of conservatism that has crept in large cities, where Diwali anyway has become a low key affair or a more subdued event. But India is one country which springes surprises perhaps more than anywhere else. The truth in any case will only by known on the auspicious day when Lord Rama returned home after an exile of 14 years. Its auspciousness cannot be taken away -- it represents the conquest of good over evil.