The solution to soaring tomato prices lies in correctly deciding the government's 'priorities', something prime ministerial candidate Modi knew, but PM Modi has forgotten, argues Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Last week when I spoke to a lady colleague, I could not believe how efficiently she handled multiple tasks almost simultaneously.
Getting her child ready for school, preparing breakfast, ironing clothes, taking care of her elderly parents, helping her child with studies, coordinating with the child's teacher... the list goes on.
That's her daily schedule apart from her regular 9 hour job.
That weekend I realised we men are good-for-nothings.
I checked with my male friends how much time they contribute to doing family chores and realised that, at best, their contribution to household duties is not more than 20 per cent.
Women who do 80 per cent of the work at home never get any credit for it.
In many cases, women do all the work while all their husbands do is earn money.
And in many cases, women not only do all the chores and earn money to run the house, but also get beaten up by their useless husbands.
I decided to conduct a survey with all the working women I know to find out how they multi-task so efficiently.
And the answer I got in one word was: Priority.
I realised that women do things better than men because they know their priorities better.
While all this swirled through my brain, as I was listening to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's radio address Mann Ki Baat, my wife came into the room, and lamented that the prices of tomatoes had risen to Rs 100 a kilo.
I am ashamed to say so, but I had no idea about it.
As I said, men are rarely concerned about household needs. I told her it must be a temporary phenomenon and tomatoes would be available at reasonable prices soon.
"They have been hovering at the same price for three weeks!" she exclaimed.
Mann Ki Baat was on and I wondered what Modi is doing to tackle soaring tomato prices.
You may wonder why I am dragging the PM into this tomato debate and what his connection to working women is.
Before the 2014 election, I savoured beef steak at virtually every Mumbai restaurant that served it, sure that beef would be banned in Modi's Raj.
My friends laughed and said I had gone nuts, but I knew the priorities of our soon to be Pradhan Sevak and what I had been expecting came about in a few months' time.
Beef was banned in Maharashtra on March 3, 2015 soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party formed the government in the state. You know why? The answer again: Priority.
Ditto in other states where the BJP came to power -- Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand. Stringent laws were enacted for cow protection, a couple of BJP chief ministers even argued for the death penalty for cow slaughter!
In Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath's government went a level higher, attacking the lifestyle of non-vegetarians in general in the name of shutting illegal slaughterhouses.
And, guess why? Again: Priority.
However, this does not answer how the PM is connected to the tomato debate.
To do that, let me take you to an interview with Modi before he became PM.
In an interview to ABP News (watch at 45.33 minutes) (external link) before the 2014 general election, Modi said something very interesting about tomato prices.
Explaining that one of his immediate plans after being elected prime minister would be to control tomato prices, Modi said, 'The Food Corporation of India has failed miserably. They should be divided in three parts and given separate responsibilities. First is procurement from farmers and second is storage. Our grains are being eaten by rats. The third is distribution.'
'There is no shortage of foodgrains in India. We need do this work scientifically. Railways transport marble first, and tomatoes later, which get spoiled (due to delay). Why? Because booking of marble was done earlier by the trader and therefore tomatoes rot at railway stations.'
'In railway transport, agricultural produce has to be given priority. Farmers' produce has to reach people in time. These are small things. It is about applying mind and then only one can find a solution.'
In other words, P-R-I-O-R-I-T-I-S-E correctly.
When Modi spoke of 'tomatoes' then, I believed that he would solve this problem. I believed him because he came from a humble background unlike the Congress yuvraj who would never have gone to a market to buy tomatoes.
I felt that Modi must have seen tomatoes rotting at railway stations and must have felt the pinch of buying expensive tomatoes.
Today, when tomatoes are sold at Rs 100 a kilo, the prime minister must be reminded of his own answer -- of getting the priorities right.
India's working women know their priorities, but it seems that Prime Minister Modi has forgotten what he spoke about three years ago.
So, till he remembers, and realises his priorities, let's continue to pay Rs 100 for a kilo of tomatoes.