Thursday, June 22nd, 2006, IndiaEnews.COM
New Delhi – Even as India’s economy is said to boom, millions of its citizens are groaning under soaring prices of vegetables and foodgrains and wish the government would do something about this, reports from across the country say.
From Chandigarh in the north, to Ranchi in the east and from Bhopal in central India to Kerala in the south, a cacophony of voices has been raised against the relentless price rise, with the common man wondering when things would return to normal.
While the poor have been worst hit, the middle class is also feeling the pinch.
Tomatoes are selling at up to Rs.50 a kilo, cauliflower at Rs.42 a kilo and chillies at Rs.70 a kilo, playing havoc with household budgets and forcing people to drastically scale down purchases of non-essential commodities.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram, at a news briefing here Thursday, made a passing reference to rising prices of vegetables, even as he focused on steps the government was taking to control the prices of foodgrains.
But, even more than wheat, sugar and pulses, it is the rising prices of vegetables that have hit the common man the hardest.
The national capital is no exception to the rising trend, with tomatoes costing over Rs.40 per kilo against Rs.15 a couple of weeks ago, cauliflower at over Rs.42 per kilo and okra at over Rs.22.
Among pulses, moong dal is selling at Rs.60-70, an increase Rs.3-13 against a week ago.
‘For the past two weeks the prices of vegetables are affecting our budget. Looking at the high tomato price, we have curbed its use,’ said housewife Romi Dash.
‘Earlier we used to consume over three kg of tomatoes every week, but for the last two weeks we are managing just one-and-a-half kilo,’ Dash added.
Traders said that while un-seasonal rain and a severe heat wave had affected production, the hike in fuel prices was also responsible for the rising prices.
‘Low production coupled with high transportation costs due to the fuel price hike is the main reason for soaring prices,’ said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
Tomato prices have touched a new high of Rs.50 a kilo in Chandigarh.
‘The government at the centre has failed to check the price hike. After the fuel prices were raised, we now have to face the burden of increased prices of all commodities. Is the government sleeping?’ complained housewife Anjana Thakur.
Raghav Puri, an executive in a private firm, had a novel way out.
‘If the government cannot control the price hike, let them bring a law that binds all employers – whether government or private sector – to increase salaries by a corresponding percentage so that people do not suffer,’ he maintained.
Even the retailers have begun to feel the pinch.
‘I have observed over the last few days that most customers have been cutting down on purchases. They are not even buying bread and milk as regularly as before,’ said grocery shop owner Satya Prakash.
‘With the local crop sold out, toma
toes are being imported from Karnataka resulting in a sharp rise in its price due to the increased transportation cost,’ said vegetable vendor Ashfaq.
‘Papa has stopped bringing fruits because they are too costly,’ complained school-going Hani Saxena.
Prices of vegetables have more than doubled in Jharkhand, forcing most housewives to drastically cut down on vegetables in the daily menu.
‘The heavy rains in the first week of June destroyed vegetables in the field. The monsoon is generally expected in the second or third week of June and farmers harvest the vegetables by June 15,’ said Vishal, a horticulturist.
‘This year, farmers did not get time to harvest the vegetables from the field and put them in cold storage.’
The situation is critical in Kerala, which is almost fully dependant on neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for supply of food items, including vegetables.
‘Ever since the assembly elections got over (in May), the price of food items have been going up from 10 percent to 75 percent,’ said Rajendran Nair, manager of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation that imports food items and acts as the second line of the public distribution system.
Price of chillies has shot up from Rs.40 to Rs.70, while the price of pulses has shot up by 25 percent and that of rice by 10 percent.