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HomeOpinionsOnion scarcity: A mostly man-made crisis that keeps affecting elections in the country

Onion scarcity: A mostly man-made crisis that keeps affecting elections in the country

Ever since Devendra Fadnavis took over the reign of Maharashtra, onion and other vegetable traders and middlemen have not been able to manipulate prices the way they used to

Have you ever heard of onion causing an elected Government to fall? Or salt doing the honours? One would be surprised to know that in the past, the prices of onions and salt has caused a lot of tension to the elected State Governments and Central Governments of this country. But if one has observed carefully, this phenomenon did not happen after Narendra Modi became the PM of our Country and Devendra Fadnavis, the CM of Maharashtra. But such incidents have happened several times in the past.

In 1980, rising Onion prices were used by Indira Gandhi to topple India’s first non-Congress Janata government. Then, in 1998 during state elections in Delhi and Rajasthan, onion prices touched Rs.40 per kg in the retail market and resulted in Sushma Swaraj, then chief minister of Delhi, losing the assembly elections. In 2010, the onion crisis caused political tension in the country and was described as “a grave concern” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  In November that year, unseasonal rainfall in onion-producing regions such as Nashik in Maharashtra delayed the arrival of onions in markets. Onion shipments were reduced to 700 to 800 tons a day from 2000 to 3000 tons a day in New Delhi markets, and the price of onion rose from Rs 35 to Rs 88 per kg in the period of one week. In August 2013, BJP and AAP opened grocery vans in the capital Delhi to sell heavily subsidised onions to embarrass the then government and highlight increased food inflation.

Maharashtra’s onion production accounts for almost 25% of the country’s output, impacting prices around the country. Nashik district alone accounts for 80% of Maharashtra’s production. The onion crisis gripping the governments again and again was usually man-made. In the past, the price manipulation was traced to the doorstep of traders controlling the release of onion stocks to Nashik’s major markets of Pimpalgaon and Lasalgaon, when rates breached the Rs 5,000 a quintal mark. But, ever since Devendra Fadnavis took over the reign of Maharashtra, onion and other vegetable traders and middlemen have not been able to manipulate prices the way they used to. The Fadnavis led state government has also taken the lead to frame a policy to encourage and grant the status of Markets of National Importance (MNI) to some of the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in the state. Maharashtra has 306 APMCs. If some of the APMCs become MNIs and do away with elected bodies they can grow beyond local markets and can also export the produce to countries overseas.

Also Read: Amidst price rise and shortage, government bans onion export

A government can be called a successful government in the area of employment, if it helps people be gainfully employed in their present location, instead of having to shift from their current location to big cities where comfort and income level may be compromised. Maharashtra Government under Devendra Fadnavis has had a perfect synchronization with the Central Government to implement the schemes for the welfare of all residents of Maharashtra, whether it is the interior regions of Vidarbha or the coastal regions of Ratnagiri or any other area.

The successful distribution of MUDRA loans meant that by 2018 end, more than 50 lakhs people had received loans under MUDRA scheme. In 2016- 17, Rs 16.9 thousand crore worth of loans were distributed and in 2017-18, this figure stood at Rs 8.8 thousand crores. Self-employment thanks to this meant that with just 4% share in the total loans Maharashtra generated the maximum additional jobs of 15% from all over India.

When Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg were added to the list of places to get new airports under the UDAN scheme, it was obvious that the Maharashtra Government is planning to increase business and employment opportunities in these areas. Coastal areas of Konkan region are currently not able to reap the full benefits of exports of their products because of lack of modernization. UDAN will help to integrate the land and air services, thus helping the produce be transported while it is fresh, to reap better benefits.

Lack of proper education facilities in this tribal-dominated district in Vidarbha region led many youths to join the Naxal movement. But, some of them realised its futility and surrendered to the police to join the national mainstream. As per an ORF Research paper, “Running alongside the security measures, the current state government has also taken various development initiatives particularly in the Gadchiroli district to address long-standing issues such as lack of irrigation, and poor healthcare and education.  The state is making the most of the different development schemes of the Centre.”

Many criticized the Fadnavis Government for giving in to the demand for further reservations to Marathas. But the fact is that by restricting riots, by increasing job opportunities in private sector, by helping in setting up self-run enterprises, by keeping the financial capital of the Country terrorist attack free, by keeping the Government steady with all partners in agreement, the Devendra Fadnavis Government has been instrumental in keeping Maharashtra on the path to progress. Lip service helps no one. Transforming promises into action, without tom-toming about it, is what efficiency is all about. And this Fadnavis Government has done that in the past 5 years. It comes as no surprise therefore that Devendra Fadnavis is the first CM since Vasantrao Naik in 1972 to complete the full five-year term. He was worth it and deserves fully to come to power once more.

(This article has been authored by Rati Hegde)

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