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Editorial

The onion power in India

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By EMN Updated: Aug 27, 2013 10:09 pm
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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he success of Sonia Gandhi’s ambitious Food Bill in the Lok Sabha notwithstanding, the Congress is also bearing the brunt of spiraling costs of onions. The issue of costly onions had as far back as 1998, caused the downfall of the BJP which was ruling in the Centre as well as in Delhi Union Territory.
As the nation is gearing up for the general elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014 along with some key Assembly elections, the Congress is now facing the same problem as its adversary, the BJP, did then, perhaps much to the delight of the latter. For, no matter what may be attributed to it including natural causes or economic reasons, it is a fact that onion prices have a habit of escalating when elections draw near. Onion is the main ingredient of India’s staple diet especially of the North.Earlier this month, the price of onion rose to Rs 60 per kg. in Delhi’s whole sale market although some rates were lower in organized retails. Concerned over the rising prices the Delhi government had started selling onion at reasonable rates. Prices have also shot up in neighbouring Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh up to Rs 50-55 per kg. Then the price soared to Rs 80 per kg despite normal supply.
The onion (Allium cepa) (Latin ‘cepa’ – onion), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is used as a vegetable and is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. This genus also contains several other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion, Egyptian onion and Canada onion.
The name “wild onion” is applied to a number of Allium species but Allium cepa is exclusively known from cultivation and its wild original form is not known. The onion is most frequently a biennial or a perennial plant, but is usually treated as an annual and harvested in its first growing season.
Onions are cultivated and used around the world. The crop is harvested and dried and the onions are ready for use or storage. The crop is prone to attack by a number of pests and diseases, particularly the onion fly, the onion eelworm and various fungi that cause rotting. Some varieties such as shallots and potato onions produce multiple bulbs.
As a foodstuff they are usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a prepared savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain chemical substances which irritate the eyes. Consumption is believed to benefit health in that onions contain phenolics and flavonoids that have potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties.
Most onion cultivars are about 89% water, with numerous nutrients in small amounts. They are low in fats and in sodium, and with an energy value. They can contribute their flavour to savoury dishes without raising caloric content appreciably.
Some people suffer from allergic reactions after handling onions. Symptoms can include contact dermatitis, intense itching, rhino-conjunctivitis, blurred vision, bronchial asthma, sweating and anaphylaxis. There may be no allergic reaction in these individuals to the consumption of onions, perhaps because of the denaturing of the proteins involved during the cooking process.
Onions and other members of the genus Allium that are commonly consumed by humans, can be deadly for dogs, cats, guinea pigs, monkeys and other animals.
In India, some sects do not eat onions as they believe them to be an aphrodisiac. Various schools of Buddhism also advise against the consumption of onions and garlic because they increase desire when eaten cooked and anger when eaten raw. So also in a village in Bihar whose inhabitants have not consumed onion for decades.
In Nagaland, wild onions are available and the rural people mostly do without the regular onion. In urban areas the price is still rising. The question is will this have any bearing on the State’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls?

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By EMN Updated: Aug 27, 2013 10:09:47 pm