Perhaps outnumbering its regular guardians of the law India has a self-appointed ‘moral police’ — who dictate what people may or may not do — as well as a ‘book police’ who regulate what people can read or write. Now, if Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has his way, the capital might have a ‘veggie police’ as well.
What will these sheriffs of sabzi do? They will help hapless civic authorities control ever rising prices of vegetables, like tomatoes and onions. With the tears-inducing price of onions yet to come down, the price of tomatoes has shot through the proverbial roof, with the vegetable costing 250% more than it did a short while ago.
While the price rise has been attributed to a shortage of tomatoes caused by crop failure in Maharashtra and disruption of supplies from Uttarakhand due to heavy rainfall, the suspected role of hoarders has made matters worse. And this, Lt Governor Jung feels, is where the cops come in: cracking down on hoarders, and facilitating through changes in traffic rules the transport of veggies into the capital.
Such policing of sabzi may or may not come as a boon to householders whose budgets have been hard hit by rising prices. But adding mandi-minding to the sundry other duties that the capital city’s already overstretched police force has to cope with might not go down well with the constable whose regular beat will not only cover protecting VVIPs, but also include keeping an eye on kaddus of another sort.
More than ever before, our lawmen will have to be mindful not only of their p’s and q’s while on the job, but will also have to mind their peas and queues at outlets selling the precious commodities where pickpockets might lurk pinching potatoes, not purses.
With veggies being deemed valuable enough to come under the purview of the police, crooks might be inspired to branch out into new fields of crime. For instance, instead of targeting banks and jewellery stores, gun-toting gangsters might raid the local Safal shop and get away with a bagful of boodle in the form of bhindis or tindas.
Similarly, kidnappers in their ransom notes might demand not cash but karelas in return for freeing their victims. And will counterfeiters of currency — allegedly sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI — switch from faking banknotes to devising spurious and inedible veggies with which to flood the market and defraud the consumer? Some would say they are already doing so, going by many of the specimens available on the market.
Should any of this come to pass, the sabzi police will more than have its work cut out for it. Indeed, hard-pressed cops might have to ask for the formation of a citizens’ constabulary to help them in their new assignment. Such special-duty law enforcers might well be called vigilantes. Or, more appropriately, veggie-lantes.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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