Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, interrupted by opposition MPs during a debate on the soaring prices of onion in parliament on Wednesday, quipped that she "doesn't eat onions much" and belongs to a family that has little use for the kitchen staple.
"I don't eat a lot of onions and garlic, so don't worry. I come from a family that doesn't have much to do with onions," Nirmala Sitharaman remarked, responding to opposition taunts during her statement in Lok Sabha on rising onion prices. The remark drew laughter in the house, with one parliamentarian pointing out that "eating too much onion tends to make one irritable".
This exchange came at a time when the Finance Minister was listing out the various measures adopted by the central government to stem rising onion prices in the country. These included imposing a ban on exports, enforcing a stock limit, importing the produce from abroad, and transferring onion from surplus to deficit areas within the country.
She also claimed that the government has plugged all loopholes through the direct benefit transfer scheme, and assured the house that "middlemen have been eliminated from the system".
Rising onion prices, with rates threatening to climb as high as Rs 150 in Kolkata, have been the cause of much commotion inside the parliament and outside it. Cases stocked with the vegetable have gone missing from trucks transporting them across the country, and a farmer in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur even reported the theft of onion crop worth Rs 30,000. Many agriculturists in the state have taken to standing guard over their fields at night.
Ms Sitharaman's address in the Lok Sabha came after Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury claimed that the government has been skirting the onion issue for several weeks now. "From the economic situation to Jammu and Kashmir and farmer's distress, the government tries to escape questions on issues that it is unable to address. When we tried to raise the issue of onions in the parliament, they prevented us from doing so by creating a ruckus," he said.
Onion is selling at anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 110 in most retail markets across the country.