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Modi's onion jibes on Manmohan Singh begin to haunt him from the past

By RK Misra*
Look before you leap, and think before you speak, for words return from the past to haunt the future. Who would know it better than Prime Minister Narendra Modi? When safely saddled in Gujarat as chief minister, he would haul the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government over the coals for rising prices of onions. In his speeches Modi conjured up a scenario wherein onions would be the prime target of thieves and people would need to keep them in safe deposit vaults.
Ironically, India is headed towards precisely such a situation under Modi rule with the social media overflowing with replays of his old onion speeches as well as film song parodies centering around the Indian staple! From gems, jewellery, cash and hoards, even mobiles and ATM break-ins, the theft of choice is fast shifting to the edible vegetable: Onions!
In Gujarat, the home state of the Prime Minister and Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah, thieves are now targeting onions. With the wedding season in bloom and the housewife in gloom as onion prices touch Rs 100 per kilogram, members of the slick fingered gentry have also changed gears, adapting to market conditions and demand-supply economics.
With a kilogram of onion turning much dearer than a litre of petrol, Sanju Prajapati, a vegetable vendor in Palanpur Patiya, Surat,  stocked up the eat -- essential dreaming of glad tidings. The glad turned to sad as he opened his shop on Friday morning to find that thieves had broken-in the night before and walked away with five sacks full.
Punning on an age-old nursery rhyme one would say, ‘all the kings horses and all the kings men, could not get back Sanju’s onions again’. He, however, refuses to give up for he is at pains to understand how something adroitly covered and camouflaged under waste and rubbish attracted the attention of the ‘experts’. 
An expert or an insider, he must be, said Sanju, if he can get to the heart of the matter. The vendor is scouring through CCTVs in the vicinity trying to come to grips with the problem that exercises his mind and scissors his profits.
On the serious side, Ahmedabad, the key city of Gujarat gets about 1,000 tons per day, of which about 65 to 75 per cent comes from Maharashtra and Karnataka and the remaining from the Saurashtra region of the state. Gujarat itself has seen a decline in sowing of onions from around 9,000 hectares last year to around 6,000 hectares this year. And therefore the rise and fall of the important onions!
‘West is west and east is east and never the twain shall meet’, said Rudyard Kipling, the author-poet who worked as assistant editor with the Indian newspaper, "Pioneer", long decades ago.
The onion thieves, however, bridged the poetic divide. When vegetable trader Akshaidas opened his shop in a place of Midnapore district in West Bengal last week he realized that thieves had made away with three bagfuls of onions. They did not touch the cash box but stripped the shop of the 100 kg of onions which he had purchased with money borrowed from a friend, ostensibly in search of fast profits.
As one said, desperate times are cause for desperate crimes. Surat is the sole link from onion theft to fake currency seizures. So one has five people including a priest of the highly Gujarat revered Swaminarayan sect allegedly printing fake Indian currency worth Rs 1.26 crore. 
In a major crackdown five people have been arrested from various parts of the state along with duplicate currency worth over Rs 1 crore, the Surat police confirmed. The fake currency was being printed from a room inside a temple of the same sect in central Gujarat.
From onions to fake currency and now high profile cash criers! Two expert burglars who turned thieving from crass coinage to cash collectives deserve mention. The two man team -- 26-year-old MB Shiva alias alias Bariappa Reddy of Bangaluru teamed up with 21-year-old Hakam Kathat of Beawar, Rajasthan, to form a formidable duo that specialized in cash break-ins countrywide.
In an era of super-specialisations, the duo had turned their ‘cash-only’ fetish into a calibrated science. Setting up a pan-India network they targeted 21 shops in just one area of Ahmedabad in a ziffy and walked away with a pile.
Surat vegetable vendor opened his shop to find that thieves had broken-in the night before and walked away with five sacks full of onion
Their thievery team is almost a corporate set-up with associates in every state and city, organized to a T. The two lead a lavish life-style, fly countrywide to fulfill objectives, operate from luxury hotels and target only a maze of shops in a market ,not individual shops. Apparently time is money seems to be their belief while cash and only cash, is their motto. 
As the cops said, they operate on a strictly ‘cash only’ basis . In most of the shops they burgled in Gujarat, there was much they could have taken besides the cash which would have fetched them a good sum of money but they did not touch any of it. The premise being that if they picked up goods or jewellery or anything else, they would need receivers for the stolen goods which, invariably is a dead giveaway.
They were so well informed by their network of associates, that they landed in Ahmedabad just around Diwali and stayed in a post hotel used forged identity documents. Obviously they had been briefed that business and trade establishments remain closed for five days immediately after Diwali and begin their work only after ‘labh pancham’. Also this being the only long break, most of them go out of town or even abroad for a holiday with their family.
Thus even in the remote possibility that the break-ins are discovered, they will not be available to corroborate to the investigating cops. And by the time they do, the duo would have vanished without a trace. In this particular case they burgled 21 shops in a single complex in one night. By the time the Ahmedabad crime branch got to work, the duo had moved to Surat, over 200 km away. 
As the investigators tracked them to Surat, they were already in deep Rajasthan but that’s where electronic surveillance saw the cops race ahead and catch them as they returned to Beawar in Rajasthan, their homing point for sharing the ’loot”.
Desperate times see desperate crimes!
---
*Senior journalist based in Gujarat. Blog: Wordsmiths & Newsplumbers

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