UNABLE to cope with the rising prices of essential and daily-use items, including pulses and vegetables, the working class, especially the lower-middle class, has started including in its diet what till last year it considered an organic waste.
Thick green succulent leaves of cauliflower and foliage of radish, for example, are mostly discarded as waste. Instead, they are fast becoming an acceptable substitute for common vegetables that are going out of the reach of the working class.
“I’ve started growing my own vegetables in the small courtyard of my house,” says Banto, a weaver of Maur Mandi, adding, “Pulses have become a luxury as we cannot afford them more than twice a week. Even the vegetables are out of reach for us. I cannot afford to buy cabbage or cauliflower for Rs 30 a kg. Green peas are now selling for Rs 80 a kg. Even potatoes, onions and tomatoes are becoming dearer day by day.
“So these common vegetables are out,” she adds.
Bant Kaur of Badrukhan in Sangrur wants the government to review its policy for Below the Poverty Line families. “The way the prices of essential items, including pulses, sugar, vegetables, oils, rice and wheat flour are rising, we wonder about our fate. After working for the whole day, I make Rs 100 and with that I cannot get even two square meals for my family,” she adds.
She says she has been cooking some of the leftover or discarded vegetables of the nearby vegetable market. “None in our family has tasted a tomato or green peas for the past several weeks. We cook dal only once a week,” she adds saying radish, sarson ka saag and sometimes palak or methi are the vegetables her family depends upon.
Many have even stopped using garlic and ginger while cooking their vegetables.
“We are no more eating the spicy food we Punjabis are known for. Whenever we cook dal at home, we cannot afford to fry it any more as the vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes are so expensive. Even spices are unaffordable,” says Prem Singh, a farm worker holding that both the state and the Central governments have failed miserably in controlling prices.
A matriculate and an activist in trade unionism, he says that there had been spells of shortages and spiralling prices. “But now these are routine. For the past more than a year, prices have failed to come down even when new agriculture produce hits the market. Rather, prices keep on rising. So much so that I cannot even afford to cook brinjal, ghia or gobhi, considered to be the cheapest or poor man’s vegetables. Now, none is available for less than Rs 30 a kg. Where do people like me go? For how many days we can survive on sarson ka saag or palak alone,” rues Prem Singh.
An extensive tour of the state reveals that even roadside eateries or dhabas hardly offer onion salad with pudina chutney as freebies with the food. Instead you are offered fresh radish.
The rate of a plate of dal fry at an ordinary dhaba has touched Rs 40 from Rs 20 to 25 last year. A cup of tea is now for a minimum of Rs 5 while a chapatti also costs you that much against Rs 3 a chapatti till last year.
“After selling cut sugarcane pieces – ghaneries – and sugarcane juice for 30 years, I was without work for a few months before I decided to switch to kinnows. The price of sugarcane has witnessed an astronomical rise. From Rs 130 a quintal last year, it has touched Rs 260 a quintal now. My regular customers get shocked when I tell them why I have moved to kinnows,” adds Prahlad of Banur. (Courtesy: TheTribune News Service)