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Onion Crisis : BJP's Nemesis

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usm-red.gif (836 bytes)The Great Indian Vegetable Crisis
It is sheer irony that in a country which is the world’s second largest producer of onions, groundnuts, wheat and rice, third largest in cotton and rapeseed, people are suffering due to shortage of vegetables.
usm-red.gif (844 bytes)Onion Crisis : BJP's Nemesis
The crisis is partly man-made and the ineptitude of the Government to come to the aid of the people for several months has further of buttressed the argument that it is a Government of nonperformance


by P.Kundu

priceprotest.jpg (12081 bytes)The onion-crisis has cost the Chief Ministership of Mr. Sahib Singh Verma, and the incumbent Chief Minister of Delhi Mrs. Sushma Swaraj has promised to supply to the capital's electorate onion at Rs. 5 a kilogram. The promise is nothing but pipe-dream. The average ruling price of onion is around Rs. 40 all over the country now.

Mr. Sahib Singh Verma's argument that ' in any case poor people do not eat onions' is just the opposite of what the former Prime Minister Mrs. India Gandhi held. She held the then caretaker Government of Charan Singh responsible for onion prices shooting to Rs. 5 a Kg. Mrs. Gandhi made onion prices a major issue in the Lok Sabha election in 1980. Even I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of the United Front ordered a ban on the export of onions in January this year being well-briefed by the Agriculture Ministry about the unseasonal rains damaging around 20% of the khariff onion crop in Nasik in Maharastra and Bellary in Karnataka, two principal onion-growing zones in the country. The measure arrested partially the increase in prices of the commodity but again it started soaring as the BJP-led Government allowed export of onions in April, unmindful of the distress likely to be caused to the consumers.

The crisis is partly man-made and the ineptitude of the Government to come to the aid of the people for several months has further of buttressed the argument that it is a Government of nonperformance. The balloon of BJP's rhetoric has been punctured. The BJP's motto -- give concessions to all and ensure 'stability' of the government. The 'ability' requiring the Govt. to learn the complexities of governance is almost non-existent.

Not that the Government was not informed of the looming shortage of onions in the market. The department of Consumber affairs of the Agricultre Ministry in its report to the Prime Minister's Office had warned of the shortfall in supply of onions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research too cautioned the BJP Government about the damage to the onion crop because of hot summer. The yield of the crop in the rabi season was less than normal. The khariff onion produce too was affected by unseasonal diwali rains. But the Government reamined unmoved hoping that the quantum of the new crop would be adequate to stop the price spiral of onions.

Did the BJP government acted on its own? Reports doing the rounds in the capital say of a Government - trader nexus which is to the liking of the RSS which mouths the slogan of the swadeshi only in the Government's relation with the traders and industrialists. The Seadeshi Jagran Manch, an RSS front welcomed the development as it thought that the principal beneficiaries of this shortage were the traders or big farmers who taking advantage of the crop failure to the extent of 20% in May-June would be minting money by controlling the release of the crop in July August in the market. They directly had a hand in the abnormal price rise of onion. After all the elections were approaching in the four states and the BJP's election kitty will have to be taken care of. He Department of Consumer Affairs reported the 'existence of a powerful cartel of traders which do not allow large-scale free trading of onions. They have large storage capacity and regulate the arrivals in the market so that the prices do not decline.'

The Government trader nexus will be borne out from the statement of the Union Minister of State, Mr. Som Pal. Says Mr. Som Pal : Large-scale imports would have affected the moral of the farmers. Mr. Som Pal's statement came when the price of onion was ruling at Rs. 40/- a kilogram in Delhi as well as in the State capitals. The people of the north Eastern States was worse off being forced to buy onion at Rs. 100/- a kilogram some days.

With the elections only a fortnight away, the BJP woke up from a deep slumber to order import of onions. But by the time prices of other vegetables including potato were shooting up and the electorate have by now been convinced of the BJP lacking the competence for governance.

The scapegoat now is the administration. The BJP leaders are after bureaucracy charging it with failures to alert the political leadership of the impending dangers. A condescending cabinet Secretary, Mr. Prabhat Kumar has meekly owned up the fault saying there was lapse in policy planning. One wonders why Mr. Kumar held the bureaucracy responsible when several Government departments cautioned the PMO over and over again against the impending crisis.

The nuclear fiasco has only embittered relation between India and China, the extremist problem in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north east including Tripura has remained unresolved and now the price rise which of onions other vegetables and essential commodities has exposed the BJP led Government's incapacity to run the administration. In its zeal to keep the industrialists, traders satisfied ignoring the untold misery common people the BJP led Government having failed to govern the country is heading towards its nemesis.

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