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Why an Indian man’s ‘heartbreaking’ tale of procuring tomatoes to sell has gone viral

‘This video literally broke my heart into pieces’

Stuti Mishra
Monday 31 July 2023 05:12 BST
Indian Tomato Seller Breaks Down Talking About Skyrocketing Prices

A video clip of an Indian vegetable seller who recounted the tough times he has had to face in fetching tomatoes to sell to eke out a living has gone viral on social media.

Prices of tomatoes in India have surged by 300 per cent in recent days, with reports of people going to neighbouring countries to buy the vegetable and even global fast food chains like McDonald’s and Subway dropping the vegetable from their inventories.

Rameshwar, the vegetable seller who lives in national capital Delhi, was forced to take long pauses to hide his emotions while talking about his ordeal due to the shocking surge in prices.

The current market rates with which he has been forced to buy the vegetable have dealt a crippling blow to his humble business, he said while breaking down in tears during the interview with online news portal The Lallantop.

“Tomatoes are very expensive, I didn’t dare (to buy them),” he told the reporter. “I don’t know if it will be sold at these prices.”

“Tomatoes get ripe and spoilt and we incur losses,” he said, adding that the price hike has made it difficult for him and his family to survive.

When asked if he will be filling his cart with something else, Mr Rameshwar said, “I don’t have that much money”, followed by a pause of several seconds in which he tries to hold back his tears before finally breaking down.

Several Twitter users commented on the video and offered to help Mr Rameshwar.

“The heart-wrenching silence of 40 seconds is the pain of the common man of this country,” tweeted former journalist and documentary filmmaker Vinod Kapri in Hindi.

“The country is being divided into two classes!” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, leader from the opposition Congress party, in Hindi. “On one hand, there are powerful people on whose instructions the policies of the country are being made. And on the other side is the common Indian, from whose reach even basic things like vegetables are going away.”

“This video literally broke my heart into pieces,” wrote one user. “I’ve never felt so helpless before.”

“Can we find him, I would like to help,” wrote one user.

“This is heartbreaking. Is there any way one can help him and those who’ve lost livelihood like him? Pls do tell,” wrote Bollywood actor Vijay Verma.

Other social media users replied to the actor, saying there were “millions [poor] like him” in the country.

“How many will you help Vijay? And for how long? There are several such people in the country. The govt is supposed to look out for these people and it’s not doing it’s job,” said another user.

“Honestly this is the situation of entire India right now in 2023,” said one user in a quote tweet.

In recent weeks, tomato prices in India have skyrocketed, with a shortage of the staple vegetable used very commonly in Indian cuisine.

Crops have globally been hit by climate crisis-fuelled heatwaves, cyclones and heavy rains this year and prices have rocketed five fold in some Indian cities, making just 1 kg of tomatoes more expensive than 1 litre of petrol.

Wholesale prices of the staple have shot up by 288 per cent in just a month in some regions, according to Reuters.

At one shop in Delhi, where 1kg of tomatoes cost Rs 39 (37p) a month ago, the price was listed as Rs 193 (approximately £2) in recent days.

With the vegetable suddenly becoming a rare commodity, there are multiple reports from across the country of farms and deliveries being targeted by thieves and Indians travelling to neighbouring Nepal to buy stocks in cheap.

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