Can a barter system work in India today? – International issues

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Barter transactions have opened the way for rural women who often lack access to cash and markets. | Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
  • Mumbai, India
  • International News Service

Farmers in rural India are dealing with a special problem.They have their own product, but due to the closure of the market during the lockdown, so no place to sell. In addition, many bank branches closure ATMs are far away. With travel restricted, cash has become all but out of reach, reducing people’s purchasing power.

Communities have to find alternative means of survival. One approach some of them have taken is to go back to the barter system – the solution they are familiar with.people barter perishables Like vegetables, the village’s Kirana shop provides essentials exchange for wheat, food becomes money to pay children tuition fee. out of stock Provide manual labor in exchange.


How did the transition happen?

Communities in rural India have been bartering for centuries.In states like Assam, where bartering is very popular during the pandemic, people celebrate it in the form of a bazaar called Jonbeel Mela. five centuries now.


The market has grown and there have been many changes in the way business transactions work, but barter continues to flourish in the tight-knit community of the village.This is because the village is different from the city driven by producers Just as consumers and rural societies rely on trust to survive.

The closeness that people share also makes collectivization and mobilization easier. This was evident during the pandemic, when people followed various COVID-19 safety protocols to meet the needs of individuals and communities.

Beauty Dutta Borah, a farmer and grocer in Kawoimari, Sivasagar district, Assam, said that during the pandemic, she not only bartered but also bartered services such as getting people to harvest and thresh rice. “For the most part, I had to call my neighbors about it,” she explained. Dutta Borah added that goods from various wholesale stores like hers are often taken from the village across the districts on a transporter. “A car travels through the Sivasagar area from our village twice a week. It can be my car or anyone else’s car in the local area. We collect goods from various local shops and sell them to people immediately,” she added road.


R Raja Resident of Chetti Thirukonam, Ariyalur District, Tamil Nadu Compare barter Debit and credit cards used by city residents to pay. He called it the “old-fashioned way of cashless payments” for rural communities to return.

New meanings of old concepts

Not-for-profit organisations working in the subsistence sector in rural India know this well-oiled barter machine. This allows them to work with the community to make ends meet—especially in spaces where income alone isn’t enough. However, since barter is a localized form of exchange, these organizations must also develop a nuanced understanding of cultural context and history.


When dristi, a non-profit that works with rural entrepreneurs and developed a mobile bartering app during the pandemic, chose Sivasagar district as a start. Paragdhar Konwar, head of the non-profit’s northeastern region, said it was a conscious decision given the region’s history. “Sivasagar was the capital of the Ahom dynasty, which ruled Assam for six centuries. People here have followed the same ancient customs for a long time, including barter.”

As a result, pre-existing community knowledge is waiting to be harvested. Konwar added: “We tell people that you will continue to binimo i prota (traditions of exchange) before explaining the new importance of barter trade during the pandemic. ” People in Assam use the mobile app to exchange rice and oil egg duck And use the tractor-operated rice mill service when nearby factories are closed.

for Gurney, a nonprofit dedicated to community development, with bartering at the heart of their work and a philosophy it embraced even before the pandemic.the name of its initiative, e.g. Wapsey (giving back) and ideas like “clothing for jobs” – aimed at building sustainable livelihoods – are borrowed from Indian cultural vocabulary.So in times of crisis when Goonj mobilizes people, it does so from a place it wants resurrection Existing concepts, rather than introducing jargon that the community may struggle to understand.

Anshu Gupta, founding director of Goonj, said: “I believe we are not doing anything new. We are valuing what is already there. The wisdom of the village has always been valued by the village, maybe not from people like us. We are just taking advantage of the community knowledge and recognize it.”

What does barter do to the community?

In addition to facilitating a hyperlocal market in an emergency, barter has other advantages for the community. Nonprofits using barter during the pandemic have found it especially popular among low-income households and women in rural India.

In cash-poor areas, bartering can help people meet local needs—whether it’s instant necessities, such as food, or second-hand smartphones. Also, barter is a viable way for local producers to sell their products. These producers are unable to take advantage of e-commerce platforms or access urban markets, driven by large volumes, standardized packaging and homogeneous aesthetics.

People also use barter to solve community problems such as lack of water, sanitation and infrastructure. For example, Goonj uses barter as compensation for labor. Villagers solve local problems themselves and receive rewards in the form of goods that are often shipped to them from cities. “Usually people wait to get government programs to solve their local problems,” Gupta said. “At the same time, there are unused materials in the cities and demand in the countryside.”

Nonprofits connect the two. Gupta added: “Imagine a situation where you give a person a shirt, and the next day you say, ‘It’s mine,’ and he’ll say, ‘Yes, it’s yours.’ But if a person is Build roads for his village or work on bodies of water, and you give him a shirt as a reward, and he’ll say, ‘It might be yours, but I’ve earned it.'”

Barter transactions have opened the way for rural women who often lack access to cash and markets. “Women who were just doing things for themselves in the early days saw barter as a huge opportunity,” says Satyan Mishra, co-founder and managing director of Drishtee. They started trading handmade items for goods they or their families wanted.

In Varanasi, women are found swap hair for cargo. Monixa Bordoloi, a resident of Dhekeria Gaon in Assam’s Sonitpur district, claims she will continue to barter whether or not there is a pandemic. “Women trade what they need, not what they already have,” she said.

Can barter replace cash?

Despite the many innovative ways people use barter, cash remains a necessity for many people’s needs.For example, while parents of students in Begusarai district of Bihar state Ability to use barter They cannot pay for medical care in the same way for their children’s education.

Therefore, the world is unlikely to shift to a system of social exchange overnight. Most aspects of our lives will continue to be defined by abstract money. There will also be people’s wishes, which can only be satisfied with money.

For that, we will need jobs, job security, equal educational opportunity, affordable health care, and more. But as many rural communities using barter attest to, it will coexist as a parallel economy embodying many of the intangible assets of human society, such as trust, goodwill and resistance.

Deboget Dutta is an editorial assistant indian development review

the story is originally published Indian Development Review (IDR)

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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