'State Bank of Tomato' Political Stunt Takes Off in India

It was meant to protest rising costs ... then people began lining up
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2017 6:08 PM CDT
'State Bank of Tomato' Political Stunt Takes Off in India
A vegetable seller arranges tomatoes to attract customers at a market in Gauhati, India. A double-digit spike in vegetable prices have pushed the wholesale based inflation to 0.79% in May.   (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath)

In a move to protest skyrocketing tomato prices in India, the Indian National Congress political party launched the “State Bank of Tomato,” a parody bank taking fruit deposits and distributing loans. But the political stunt by the youth wing of the opposition party has gained traction in Uttar Pradesh’s capitol, Lucknow, reports the Times of India. Operating during typical business hours daily, the bank claims it will return five times an initial tomato deposit and provides loans to those who cannot afford the popular fruit at current market rates. Per the Washington Post, the hike in tomato prices, said to have quadrupled since June to $1.60 per kilogram, comes after a monsoon wreaked havoc on the crop. Though the prices will likely stabilize in a couple weeks, the toll of such a hike is being felt well beyond the country’s poorest.

As a result, people began lining up to use the bank in fear of having their tomatoes pilfered from their homes. Meanwhile, armed guards are watching over an Indore market to protect vegetable traders following a Mumbai “tomato heist,” where more than 30 crates were stolen. “I’m 103 years old. I never thought [I’d] have to see this,” says bank customer Srikrishna Verma; the Indian Express reports that he deposited 1.1 pounds of tomatoes and expects a return of 2.2 pounds after six months. Per the Post, analysts fear that onions, which have doubled in cost due to the inclement weather, might face a similar hike and potential political crisis next. That's concerning, since the “Great Onion Disaster” of 1998 ended up toppling the ruling party at the time. (Read more India stories.)

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