A treatise on onions: Making sense of India’s political economy

India, New Delhi, August 2015: activists shout slogans as they rally against rising staple food prices, especially for pulses and onions (source: dpa)
India, New Delhi, August 2015: activists shout slogans as they rally against rising staple food prices, especially for pulses and onions (source: dpa)

‘Incredible India’ is a slogan promoting tourism in India. For many of the country’s citizens, it depicts reality quite accurately. India’s economic life is rich in incredible phenomena – and even some that are cause for incredulity.

Is there any other place where elections are decided by the price of onions? In how many countries do governments impose restrictions on domestic shipments and exports of onions? Which regimes in the world are ruthless enough to criminally prosecute vegetable traders for onion hoarding? Where else does one encounter ‘fair price’ government-run shops peddling onions and setting limits on the quantities purchased? Or find farmers in one part of the country ...

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