Combating the onion shortage

Combating the onion shortage

For nearly four decades, as far as recent developments go, the issue of onion shortage has rocked India time and again.

For nearly four decades, as far as recent developments go, the issue of onion shortage has rocked India time and again.

Among many other issues which brought down the short-lived Janata Party government at the Centre in 1980, the scarcity of onions in the local markets got added to the bulging campaign arsenal of a resurgent Congress party then which exploited the issue skillfully to storm back to power under the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

Political observers would remember it was also the cause of the fall of the BJP government in Delhi in 1998, as the public were enraged at its incompetence to rein in the spiraling prices of the bulbous vegetable.

Riding on an anti-BJP mood, it was a record three-time chief minister tenure enjoyed by the Congress Party leader Sheila Dikshit, who successfully withstood many twists and turns to stay in power till 2013.

In the past decade, the dreaded price spiral of onion, a staple ingredient of a majority of Indian kitchens has sent shivers down the political establishments.

Despite ascribing various reasons for it from seasonal fluctuations to demand and supply scenario, it has been a problem which has vexed the common man repeatedly.

What cannot be ignored is the kneejerk reaction the governments have made every time the problem reaches a flashpoint. From banning its export to seemingly cracking the whip on hoarders and black marketeers, every move of the Establishment boomerangs, more often than not, doing precious little to stem the rising prices.

It is cold comfort that in these days of digital media boom, the subject is viral on various platforms with memes and comic visuals highlighting the pain even further. Yet, after harassing the public, already in dire straits with fixed incomes and variable expenditures, the shortage eases over a period of time, only to resurface again after a break.

This time around, there are news reports on how huge stockpiles of stored onion have already rotted making it useless for consumption. Also, importing the pungent bulb from countries like Egypt, Turkey, Holland and a few more is being proposed to cool down the overheated onion market.

Meanwhile, the prices of a kilo of onion have now touched the three-figure mark, with state-level authorities trying to intervene and sell it at around Rs 40 per kilogram to limited success.

From Jammu to Kanyakumari, demonstrators have hit the streets, backed by opposition parties, who find it a super tactic to embarrass the government, wearing onion garlands and happily posing for pictures.

As of now, it is headache number one for the housewives at home and a rapidly escalating problem for governments across the country. Interestingly, a few months ago when the Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina had visited New Delhi, she had made a statement as to how she had asked her staff to reduce onion consumption at her home since they were facing a problem of importing it from neighbouring India.

One does not know what the condition in the homes of our netas is, who are used to sumptuous, subsidised food in the Parliament canteen and elsewhere in the state assemblies. The vexed onion issue will continue to harass the aam aadmi for a while to come.

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