Hail, The Lessons from an Onion.

Yesterday I bought a quarter kilo of onions for Rs 15/- and put them in the basket. This morning I picked up one medium size bulb without any skin, washed it and as soon as the knife cut open the first thick layer, it started speaking: “The basket was telling me you used to always fill it with five kilo lots of and now only a quarter. I can understand. Heavy price rise, fixed income. Oh yes, which place is it?”. I told, “it is Deradun.” They layer continued, “You people do not grow onions here? That is why having bought me for Rs. 8/- a kilo in Gujarat, put me in cold store for 4-5 months, the traders have brought me so far away. Thanks to this phenomenal price rise, I too would, otherwise have rotten there in the cold and dark halls like my parents and uncles.”

When the first thin layer was cut open, it said, “You must be understanding simple arithmetic. Having bought us for eight rupees a kilo from the growers, and having put us in cold stores for four months the traders have made sixty, it is 750%. It comes up to a 2,250% in one year. Deducting expenses, net profit is 2,000%. These fellows and those who earn only 20-25% per year, pay income taxes at the same rate. It is not justified at all.”

The second thick layer explained: “You have huge departments of Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry etc. There are ministers with doctorates from Harvard, Cambridge, an army of administrators, directors and many more …ters. They are all selected so very carefully from amongst the best university graduates, they are trained at Hi-Fi training institutes. There are very well endowed Agriculture Universities churning out hundreds of Agri, Horti, Vety graduates every year. What is the output of their combined efforts? A paltry 2-3% growth rate of Agriculture sector. This is perhaps less than the total annual expenses of all the above organisations. No wonder the supplies of food articles never reach the outer fringes of their demand. They always blame the weather, some times heavy rains other times drought. Even when stored food grains rot in godwans due to human inefficiency, it is weather that is blamed.”

Knife went deeper to second thin layer. She counselled: “Make arrangements for timely forecast of expected yields, demand storage capacities and facilities, of imports or exports, international price behavior, conservation and preservation quantities, and sustained regular supplies to different consumer centres of the country at such prices that rise at rates lesser than incomes.”

The third thick layer smiled and said: “My tow elder sisters are naive. They do not know that the root cause of the problem is ‘itch’, yes ITCH. Ministers, bureaucrats, and traders are scratching each others backs. They monopolise the nation’s social, economic and moral systems. The election of the first, the selection of the second, and the permission to the thrid cannot break this monopoly.”

The third thin layer added, “Our country has laws against any monopoly. This can be done if we make it compulsory for all these three-some to undergo a rigorous training in democratic management of the social, economical and ethical value systems of the country as obligatory organs of their activities, in a manner that are complimentary and supplementary to one another and not antagonistic as they have been behaving so far. Can any party, person or group do it?”

The fourth thick layer, when opened, shouted angrily “Why are you disturbing my nap? Go and bare the layers of those who are responsible for this painful state of affairs. Make them see reason, scold them, threaten them, if necessary throw them out in ensuing elections. But, do you hear me? BUT, for achieving this, more importance needs to be given to producers and consumers rather than to traders. The first two pillars of a proper market system have to hands together protect their interests. I wonder if it can be done in a country where the mind-set is to ‘plow one’s own lonely furrow’. May be the present agony of extreme exploitation of both may compel them to join hands.”

The fourth thin layer agreed and gave way towards the fifth thick layer. It looked at me and shot a question: “Who are you? You don’t look like an ordinary citizen. Are you a journalist, a writer, a surveyor, a social worker or an intellectual?”. I said that I am bit of every one of these. I have actually come to learn from you to seek your guidance.” The layer said, “What ever food items you need, grow them in your areas. Why do you go thousands of kilometers away or even across the seven seas? Onion dry flakes are made and sold in Gujarat for decades. Many more vegetables can be dehydrated and used during lean periods of supply. It is much cheaper to store and transport them.”

The fifth thin layer supported and added, “I hear a name Nafed. Why don’t’ you make this or that Fed in each district to take care of supplies of food materials and manage the chain scientifically in their respective areas?”

It was a relief that the bulb was small. The Chief at the centre was exposed. It said, “My green leaf antennas have already informed me that the country is bogged up with many big big scandals and those in power are busy burying the stench. Why are you getting involved in all these dreamy lessons? Go and prepare yourself to buy onions at Rs. 200-250 a kilo next year. That’s what it is going to be.”

I was taken aback and speechless. This grand fellow is putting layers on me. I got busy with further chopping and the media printed the lessons from this small onion for everyone to ruminate.

Dehradun, India.

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