“Rahul-sir se meri baat ho sakti hai kya?”: vegetable vendor Rameshwar wants to talk to Rahul Gandhi

A vegetable vendor who missed Gandhi on his visit to Azadpur Mandi, the wholesale produce market, wants to thank him for his empathy for the poor

Rahul Gandhi at Azadpur Sabzi Mandi (screengrab from Rahul Gandhi/Youtube)
Rahul Gandhi at Azadpur Sabzi Mandi (screengrab from Rahul Gandhi/Youtube)

NH Digital

Rameshwar does not ask for help. After a video clip of him in conversation with Lallantop reporter Bhanu Kumar Jha went viral in the last week of July, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited Azadpur and listened to the vegetable vendors there. Rameshwar, however, missed him.

In the viral video, Rameshwar was seen with his empty hand-cart, telling Jha that he had arrived at the market to buy tomatoes but the prices were so high that he could not afford to buy the perishable vegetable.

Asked if he would buy some other vegetable, he replied, "Paise nahin hain." He did not have enough money to buy any other vegetable that day either.

After the clip went viral on social media (Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi too mentioned it in his speech in the Lok Sabha), several people admonished him for ‘complaining about inflation to the media'.

Others told him that he could have borrowed money from them.

A few said he would face the wrath of the government.

When the reporter caught up with him again three weeks later (the link to the video can be accessed at the bottom of this story), Rameshwar remonstrated that he was only being truthful. "Inflation should not be such that only half the population is able to feed itself and the other half go hungry (aadhi khaye, aadhi nahi khaye). I never lie," he says repeatedly.

Rameshwar migrated to Delhi with his family from a village in Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh 10 years ago. But this is the first time he had incurred losses, he said. His daily earnings average Rs 200–400; on a good day, it goes up to Rs 1,000.

Vendors at Azadpur had told Rahul Gandhi that while at the wholesale market at that time tomatoes were being sold at Rs 160 a kilogram, the e-commerce portals and corporate retail outlets, because of their economies of scale and their ability to purchase directly from the farmers, were able to sell tomatoes at Rs 120 a kilogram.

Rameshwar admits that initially he was scared after people told him about the viral clip. His daughter showed him the clip in which he is seen with his minor son. “My son was just looking after the cart,” he says by way of explanation, lest he is accused of exploiting his son by way of child labour. He wasn’t, however, asked about his experience with the police.

The reporter exclaims at his ability to smile frequently despite the poverty and the challenges. Rameshwar smiles again and says that he cannot be robbed of his smile, which is a free gift from God. Life is such a roller-coaster ride, he adds philosophically, that smiling is the best way to negotiate it.

He does not have a bank account. But his wife has one in the village, to receive subsidies for school uniforms and textbooks for his children.

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