|HOME | NEWS | ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS '98 | REPORT|
|November 19, 1998||
Onion prices fall by half in Rajasthan
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Jaipur
With just six days left for E-Day, the beleaguered Bhairon Singh Shekhawat government in Rajasthan, which has been hearing dire predictions of doom ever since the election was announced, has got some good news at last.
Onion prices are falling in the state.
The vegetable bulbs, which were selling for Rs 40 a kilo, are now going for Rs 20 at Lal Koti, Jaipur's biggest market.
Similarly, potatoes are selling for Rs 8 to Rs 10 a kilo, down from Rs 18 to Rs 20 just ten days ago.
Tomatoes have also become cheaper, with good quality tomatoes going for Rs 22 a kilo while the desi variety retails for Rs 15. Both kinds are cheaper by nearly Rs 10 from last week.
Groundnut oil prices have also fallen by Rs 10, to Rs 53 to Rs 55 a kilo.
Explains vegetable wholesaler Fakhruddin Khan, "A new crop has come into the market and there is a sudden increase in supply. That is why prices are going down."
More interestingly, prices of vegetables like brinjal, spinach, gourds, and cabbage are at their lowest in a long time. Brinjals are selling for an unbelievable Rs 2 a kilo, gourds for Rs 4, and cabbage for Rs 5. Most other vegetables do not cost more than Rs 10 a kilo.
But it is not yet clear whether this fall is going to be good enough to prevent Shekhawat's fall. Fakhruddin Khan points out that in the first place, not all commodities were affected by the rise in prices. "The rains destroyed some crops and the prices of only those commodities increased. So if the prices of onions and potatoes increase, you cannot really say that prices in general are escalating."
Senior Congressman Nawal Kishore Sharma disagrees. "Onion is the poor man's dish. The poor consume onions the most. So the government should have acted. But not anticipating the crisis, they slept."
Says Manbar Umaot, a 42-year-old housewife: "My family has not tasted onions and potatoes for four months now, though they are the favourites in my home. But we just cannot afford them, even at these rates."
Umaot has six members in her family, of whom two -- her husband and son -- are employed. Together they bring home Rs 5,000 every month. But she still has to plan her budget carefully, especially when it comes to buying vegetables.
Certainly there is an undercurrent of anger against the government for not keeping prices under control, and this has become one of the most important issues in the election.
"We know price rise is an important issue," admits Raghuvir Singh Kaushal, state BJP president. "But the unseasonal rains and bad weather made prices jump. Now with the new crop coming into the market, prices have scaled down."
Now farmers are unhappy. Says R S Chaudhary, a farmer from Jhunjhunu: "Unlike other crops, onions cannot be stored for a long time. If we do not sell our produce quickly, it will rot. The government should have given some storage facilities to farmers."
Farmers in Rajasthan are even more peeved because they have had to throw their onions while the state government was importing the bulbs without giving them time to sell their produce. "After the government ordered the import of onions, there were no takers for our onions," says Chaudhary.
Interestingly, a rumour doing the rounds is that the Pokhran nuclear tests damaged crops, causing prices to rise. Moreover, the Congress has played its cards well, impressing upon people that the BJP is a party of Banias (traders) and they are hoarding essential commodities.
But as Yashodhara Sharma, a housewife who like many other Jaipurites has been visiting the wholesale market once a week instead of buying her provisions from retailers, pointed out, "If the fall in vegetable prices continues a little longer, the people's anti-BJP mood may change."
Which is quite ironic, because just as the government claimed it wasn't responsible for prices rising, it is not responsible for bringing them down either.
"People don't understand how the vegetable market functions," says R C Gupta, a wholesaler and BJP supporter. "The government has done nothing to bring prices down. It is just that a new crop has come into the market. But people feel the government is bringing down the prices."
But for once the government and the BJP aren't complaining. They can do with all the help they can get.
SHOPPING HOME | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS
PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK