External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is not only known for her active presence on Twitter to respond to the SOS messages of Indians stranded abroad, something that has earned her the title of “agony aunt”, she is also loved for her witty one-liners in response to the tweets that intend to take a dig on her, like happened this morning.

A Karan Saini, whose Twitter bio says that he is tweeting from Chicago, wrote on Twitter that “Sushma Swaraj, I am stuck on mars, food sent via Mangalyaan (987 days ago), is running out, when is Mangalyaan-II being sent?” He also tagged the Indian Space Research Organisation in his tweet.

Incidentally, the man had tweeted the same lines on June 6 but Sushma Swaraj didn’t respond to it.

But Twitter history says patience pays here if you want to have a response from Sushma Swaraj. And whenever she does so, responding to the tweets which are generally ignored by other ministers of the government of India for being poor in taste or for being satirical, she is at her hilarious best in answering them. Mr. Saini’s retweet of his tweet finally caught Sushma’s attention and what she wrote in response has gone viral on the internet for its wit and humour. She wrote,

India launched Mangalyan I in November 2013 and Mangalyan II mission is still in planning stage and the ISRO has invited scientific proposals for it.

The episode reminds of some of the earlier instances when the EAM’s Twitter remarks made the Internet go berserk, be it people’s silly and misplaced complaints or SOS cries. In March, a woman tagged Sushma Swaraj saying she would keep tweeting unless Sushma responds. The woman claimed that she was cheated by her NRI student. In her inimitable style, that has become barometer of her patience, Sushma assured the woman of every help but it was the Twitter conversation between both that caught people’s eye.

Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj
Aap haar mat maniye. Mujhe apni samasya batayiye.
Sushma Swaraj added,
Richa Patel @RichaPa49309383
@SushmaSwaraj @SushmaSwaraj dear mam me bhi apko tab tak tweet karti rahungi jab tak ap javab nhi dete me bhi har nhi manungi….
9:07 AM – 30 Mar 2017

In another instance, when a woman threatened to commit suicide as she was not able to get New Zealand visa to meet her husband, Sushma calmly advised her not to commit suicide and tell what the issue was.

Sushma Swaraj‏ @SushmaSwaraj
Aap suicide mat kijiye. Apni baat batayiye.Sushma Swaraj added,
Jyoti S Pande @jyotiranapande
Replying to @SushmaSwaraj
Please help me for my visa
Mere ko suicide krna parega kya.apni baat aap taak paguchane ko
9:14 AM – 30 Mar 2017

The conversation thread on Twitter for this tweet is just an example how patiently and discreetly Sushma handles such Twitter complaints. From March 30 to 31, Sushma Swaraj and the woman exchanged eight tweets with Sushma asking for details and the woman finally thanking her for help.

Or take this tweet when a man complained the EAM about a defective refrigerator sold to him. Instead of just ignoring it, what she wrote tell us why she is considered one of the best orators in Indian politics.

Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj
Brother I cannot help you in matters of a Refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.
Venkat‏ @M_VenkatM
@irvpaswan @SushmaSwaraj Dear Ministers, @Samsung_IN sold me a defective refrigerator, they r not ready to replace
9:27 AM – 13 Jun 2016



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Drought or rains, the farmer in India is cursed to live a life of misery. In last 15 years, over 2.30 lakh farmers have been forced to commit suicide, i.e., two farmers committing suicide every hour. Either a drought year damages their standing crops or a normal rainfall causes overproduction, something that is happening this year also, that makes their produce much cheaper than the prevailing market prices and thus a burden as they are not able to recover even their input costs.

And raging farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur and other districts of Madhya Pradesh and farmers’ protests in states like Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu tell us their patience is finally waning. And why not? How long can they sustain with a monthly household income of Rs. 6426 when they have to feed mouths, when they have to educate children, when they have to cover their health costs and most importantly, they have to repay their loans that they took to sow their crops? How can they manage all this in a meager sum Rs. 6426?

The National Sample Survey Office’s report of the country’s agricultural households has estimated the average income per month of agricultural households at Rs. 6426 a month. And this income figure is not from farming alone. In fact, according to the NSSO survey, farming accounts for less than 50 per cent of the income of an agricultural household. Out of Rs. 6426 a month, cultivation accounts for earning of Rs 3078 or 47.9 per cent, Rs 2069 or 32.2 per cent comes from wage or salary, Rs 765 or 11.9 per cent comes from livestock and Rs 514 or 8 per cent from non-farm business.

Punjab’s agricultural households, at Rs 18059 a month, earn most followed by Haryana’s agricultural households at Rs 14434 a month and Jammu & Kashmir at Rs 12683 a month while Bihar’s agricultural households earn lowest in the country at Rs 3558 per month followed by West Bengal’s agricultural households at Rs 3980.

According to the 70th Round of the National Sample Survey, conducted during January-December 2013, the number of agricultural households in India was around 9 crore. Now if we take the average Indian family size of five, we can say that 45 crore of Indians are surviving just at Rs 6426 per month. And Rs 6426 per month for a family of five means Rs 1285 per individual per month of an agricultural household in our country, an income level around our abysmally low poverty lines that have always been questioned by activists and experts.

Contrast it to India’s per capita income at Rs 1,03,219 or Rs 8600 a month. Even if indicative, if we juxtapose this income figure for a family of five, it comes around Rs 43,000 a month.

This huge gap between the income of an agricultural household and an average Indian household, i.e, Rs 6426 to Rs 43,000 per month, is the result of skewed income distribution in our society. The Household Survey on India’s Citizen Environment & Consumer Economy (ICE 360 degree survey) findings show the stark income based difference prevailing in our country. According to the survey, India’s richest 20 per cent account for the country’s 45 per cent aggregate household disposable income while its poorest 20 per cent barely survive on seven per cent of the share.

India has 363 million people living below the latest national poverty line suggested by the Rangarajan Committee in 2014 – Rs 32 a day in rural India and Rs 47 a day in urban India. Contrast it to the Global Poverty Line of Rs 123 a day ($1.90), four times of India’s rural poverty line and three times of its urban poverty line and we are staring at a much higher number than 363 million of defined poor in our country.