Food prices: Modi doesn’t talk about it, media doesn't write, and poor have stopped eating
New Delhi, June 22: In a simple exercise to understand the impact of price rise on the Aam Aadmi (common man), this reporter of OneIndia decided to visit a couple of vegetable vendors in the Marathahalli area of Bengaluru on Tuesday (June 21), which also happens to be celebrated as the International Yoga Day.
The reporter was accompanied by Bunty Singh, a security guard, and Pushpa Shrikanth, a domestic help. The duo lives and works in Marathahalli.
The idea behind visiting the vegetable shops with Bunty and Pushpa was to understand how people, who belong to the lowest strata of society, are managing their kitchens even as they battle inflation.
Both Bunty and Pushpa had a budget of Rs 100 each to spend on vegetables for the day. While Pushpa bought a kilogram of onion (Rs 25), one kilogram of cabbage (Rs 40) and one kilogram of brinjal (Rs 35), Bunty on the other hand bought a kilogram of potato (Rs 24), one kilogram of onion (Rs 25), 100 grams of chilli (Rs 8) and 500 grams of lady's finger (Rs 30).
After finishing their shopping, both of them lamented that it has become "increasingly difficult" for them to eat three proper meals these days. "It's like either have rice and dal three times a day or if you want to have sabzi then just sabzi and water, and sometimes nothing at all," said Bunty.
"I stay here alone. I earn Rs 8,000 a month by working 14-hours a day, all seven days a week. I send Rs 6,000 to my mother in Bihar every month. She is a widow and our family owes Rs 5-lakh debt which we incurred during my father's medical treatment four years ago. Unfortunately, my father died.
That is why I had to come to Bengaluru to earn my livelihood," added Bunty.
Twenty six-year-old Bunty was working as an agricultural labourer at his village in Simaria located in Begusarai district. He came to the city three years ago in the hope of earning a better livelihood to help clear his family's debts.
Bunty says he is thankful that the housing society, where he works, provides him accommodation facilities.
"Otherwise I won't have been able to send home money. I am somehow managing to survive with Rs 2,000 a month. But it is very hard. I eat two meals a day.
I cook on my own. I mostly eat rice with either dal or a vegetable curry. Sometimes I eat rice with pickles and onions. I have lost five kgs in the last few months as I've deliberately omitted several ingredients from my diet. I can't afford eating vegetables and dal daily," Bunty added.
Pushpa's life is no better than Bunty's. The 40-year-old stays in a rented accommodation with her husband and two children.
Her husband works as a waiter in a small hotel and earns Rs 14,000 a month. Pushpa works in four houses and earns Rs 10,000 a month. "Half of my salary goes into paying the rent. We stay in a single-room accommodation.
The remaining salary is spent on the education of my son and daughter, studying in class eight and class five respectively. My husband's income is spent on buying essential items. Because of the rise in food prices, we hardly eat proper meals," Pushpa rued.
The current food price inflation is well-explained in a report published by The Indian Express on June 15. "Consumer food price inflation, at 7.55 per cent year-on-year in May, has hit a 21-month-high.
And what's striking, and probably surprising, is how steep has been the climb - from an average of 2.7 per cent during July-September (when the monsoon rains had failed) to 5.2 per cent in March (when the drought was at its peak) and 7.5 per cent-plus now (when a good monsoon is supposedly round the corner)," stated the report.
In recent few days, the prices of tomatoes, potatoes and pulses have increased sharply across the country. In several cities of the country, prices of tomatoes have reached Rs 100 a kg. The vegetable vendors are selling potatoes for Rs 25 a kg.
However, nothing can beat the prices of pulses, considered poor man's meat. Customers are forced to spend Rs 170 a kg for arhar dal and Rs 196 a kg for urad dal.
On a day when politicians showed various yoga asanas (Tuesday was the International Yoga Day) and TV studios were busy dissecting Bollywood's enfant terrible Salman Khan's "rape" comment, people like Bunty and Pushpa struggled to keep their home fires burning.