From gems, jewellery, cash and hoards, even mobiles and ATM break-ins, theft of choice is fast shifting to the edible vegetable: Onions!

In Gujarat the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union home minister and BJP president, Amit Shah thieves are now targeting onions. With the wedding season in bloom and the housewife in gloom as onion prices touch Rs 100 per kilogram, members of the slick fingered gentry have also changed gears, adapting to market conditions and demand-supply economics.

With a kilogram of onion turning much dearer  than a litre of petrol, Sanju Prajapati, a vegetable vendor in Palanpur patiya, Surat  stocked up the  eat- essential dreaming of glad tidings. The glad turned to sad as he opened his shop on Friday morning to find that thieves had broken-in the night before and walked away with five sacks full. Punning on an age-old nursery rhyme one would say , 'all the kings horses and all the kings men ,could not get back Sanju's onions again'. He ,however ,refuses to give up for he  is at pains to understand how something adroitly covered  and camouflaged  under waste and rubbish, attracted the attention of the 'experts'. An expert or an insider ,he must be, said Sanju, if he can get to the heart of the matter. The vendor is scouring through CCTVs in the vicinity trying to come to grips with the problem that exercises his mind and scissors his profits.

On the serious side, Ahmedabad ,the key city of Gujarat gets about 1000 tonnes per day of which about 65 to 75 per cent comes from from Maharashtra and Karnataka and the remaining from Saurashtra region of the state. Gujarat itself has seen a decline in sowing of onions  from around 9000 hectares last year to around 6000 hectares this year. And therefore the rise and fall of the important onions!

'West is west and east is east and never the twain shall meet', said Rudyard Kipling, the author -poet  who worked as assistant editor  with the Indian newspaper, Pioneer , long decades ago.

The onion thieves ,however bridged the poetic divide. When vegetable trader Akshaidas opened his shop in a place of Midnapore district in West Bengal this last week he realized that thieves had made away with three bagfuls of onions. They did not touch the cash box but stripped the shop of the 10 kgs of onions which he had purchased with money borrowed from a friend, ostensibly in search of fast profits.

As one said, desperate times and desperate crimes. Surat is the sole link from onion theft to fake currency seizures. So one has five people including a priest of the highly Gujarat revered Swaminarayan sect allegedly printing fake Indian currency worth Rs 1.26 crores. In a major crackdown five people have been arrested from various parts of the state along with duplicate currency worth over Rs one crores, the Surat police confirmed. The fake currency was being printed  from a room inside a temple of the same sect in central Gujarat.

From onions to fake currency and now high profile cash criers! Two expert burglars who turned thieving from crass coinage to cash collectives deserve mention. The team man team- 26 year old  ,M.B.Shiva alias alias Bariappa Reddy  of Bangaluru teamed up with 21 year old  Hakam kathat of Beawar,Rajasthan to form a formidable duo that specialized in  cash break-ins countrywide.

In an era of super-specialisations, the duo had turned their cash-only fetish into a calibrated science. Setting up a pan-India network they targeted 21 shops in just one area of Ahmedabad in a ziffy and walked away with a HYPERLINK "http://pile.it"pile.it s almost a corporate set-up with associates in every state and city,organized to a T. The two live a lavish life-style, operate from luxury hotels and target only a maze of shops in a market ,not individual shops. Cash and only cash, is their motto. As the cops  said,  they operate on a strictly 'cash only' basis  . The premise being that if they picked up goods or jewellery or anything else, they would need receivers for the stolen goods which, invariably is a dead giveaway. So it s best working single, ready to mingle ! EOM

Also Read: Onion prices reach Rs 7,990 per quintal in Maharashtra's Lasalgaon, touch all-time high after 72-years