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Vegetables, a luxury for poor in Delhi: Report
New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS):
Published on 20 Dec. 2009 10:40 PM IST
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No tomatoes, no cauliflower. Saraswati Devi, a domestic help, has struck off quite a number of vegetables from her kitchen shelf. Earning roughly Rs.5,000 per month, Devi says she can no longer afford such “luxuries” and has to make do with the humble radish and other greens only. “My pay has not increased since last year. But the price of every commodity - food items, even milk - has risen. Therefore, I have no option but to cut down here and there to make ends meet,” Devi told IANS. Devi is one of the thousands in the city badly hit because of the price rise. For her, it no longer is a question of what she would like to eat for dinner, but what she can afford. “Tomatoes, cauliflower, peas - they are all the rich man’s vegetables. At Rs.40 a kilo, how can I possibly afford these? I am a single mother with three children and despite wanting to cook something different that my kids would like, we eat more or less the same thing everyday,” she said. To cut costs, Devi said she goes to the wholesale market to buy her vegetables. She has also been looking for shops around her home that sell pulses at wholesale rates to save herself from the pinching market prices. “Forget other things, even potatoes are so expensive! Basic pulses are beyond my reach. From the days when I used to cook these for dinner everyday, it has become a luxury,” she said. Similar is the tale of woe for Rajeev Misra who works as a cook in north Delhi. “I live with two other people in north Delhi in order to cut costs. However, in the past eight months, my savings have almost become negligible. I come from Bihar and had come to Delhi to earn and send some money back home. But with the rising costs of food and increased house rent, I hardly save anything,” Misra said. “When I asked one of my employers to increase my pay, he discontinued my service...therefore in the other two households that I work in, I have not demanded an increase. Everyone is suffering because of rising prices, but those at the bottom of the ladder are the worst hit,” he said. “Milk, which was available for Rs.25 a litre, is now Rs.32, adding to my budget,” Misra said. As per official data on wholesale price index, potato prices have risen 136 percent in a year, pulses are dearer by 41 percent and the price of onions are up by over 15 percent. “The latest figures on inflation for primary articles are highly disturbing. If we look at the break-up of food articles, the rise in prices are in basic items like pulses, spices, milk and wheat,” said Siddharth Shankar, an economist with a research firm here. While opposition parties are livid, the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have also expressed concern over galloping prices, as the country’s annual food inflation shot up to nearly 20 percent for the week ending Dec 5. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “This is a matter of concern. There is an inflationary pressure, particularly in food items. The current episode of increase in prices does not appear to be a product of aggregate demand expansion in the economy. “Its dominant cause is the supply-side constraint, due to reduced food production that the drought and poor monsoon in India have inevitably given rise to,” he said. The trend has not left any section of the society unaffected. While for those like Devi and Misra the galloping prices are affecting their lives, for families of the upper middle class the price rise is affecting their lifestyle. Shravan Sharma, a teacher, said that because of the rising prices their “eating out” trips have been cut down. “I have two teenaged kids and ordering a pizza for all of us or going out for a meal once in a while was nothing uncommon. But with the prices of commodities like vegetables, pulses, milk and others shooting up - and my salary remaining the same - we have to run on a tighter budget,” Sharma said. Even for those eating at home, some food items commonly seen on the dining table have now become rare. Sashi Sharma, a homemaker, said: “My son loves eating chicken and has to have non-veg for lunch or dinner. But with the cost of chicken going up from Rs.90 a kilo to Rs.130-140, our expenses have shot up. We have stopped eating out too much and go out just once in a while.”

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