- What are the reasons which have made rationing necessary?
- How is it done? How has it worked so far?
- What classes benefit from rationing?
- It can be defeated unless all cooperate.
The end of the second world war saw a world-shortage in certain kinds of foods. Nations had been destroying instead of producing and, with so many men serving in the forces, large areas had been allowed to go out of cultivation. The situation in Indo-Pak sub-continent had been affected by the fact that Burma and Malaya had, owing to being seats of war, ceased to export rice, and consequently, large sections of the population were deprived of their vital food. In addition, the fact that India and Pakistan or now independent and forced to balance their budget has forced us to cut down imports from foreign countries as much as possible.
When there is a shortage of a certain food, it matters very much whether that food is an important and vital article of diet or a luxury. Rice and wheat in Pakistan and meat in Great Britain, are necessary to the peoples concerned. When there is only a small amount of rice, not enough to give every person all he wants, then the only thing to do is to ration it. That is, to arrange methods by which there shall be the distribution of a share to everybody, not so much as he wants, but still a certain amount. If this were not done, there would be a rise in prices as people tended to compete for the limited supplies. Rich people would get plenty of rice, and the poor wouid get none. A system of rationing, in which every person is registered with a certain shopkeeper and gets a fair share every week at a normal price, that is the only way to meet national shortage. If there were no such system, rice, kerosene oil; flour, ghee, all would become luxuries unobtainable by the poor.
Even long after the war, the British people were short of food. Bread there is in plenty, fish can be caught around the coasts to yield a normal supply to all. But meat is an import largely from the Argentine, butter and cheese have to come from Canada and NewZealand: eggs are scarce, since only small imports can be got from Denmark and Holland. So every person still has a ration book, and draws a small regular ration of butter and cheese, less than a man could eat in one day. But everybody gets a share, and it is the same for all.
The rationing of flour, rice and kerosene oil all were looked on with suspicion in this sub-continent. Petrol, 100, had to be doled out according to need. There is no means of avoiding this. Blackmarket dealing has arisen in all countries. We all know of it in India; and in London, fortunes have been made by unscrupulous persons. No system of rationing can be entirely successful without the honest cooperation of all the people. As human nature is weak, there will be everywhere unscrupulous persons out to make money by selling goods illegally, at a high price to rich people. Those who buy from them are equally guilty and should be punished. It is an unpatriotic act either to sell or buy in this way. All should loyally support the Government in their efforts to see that there is a fair sharing out of goods which are scarce.