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Monday, February 02, 2015

Madras checks finds support in Spain - The Hindu

Madras checks finds support in Spain - The Hindu

I don't claim myself to be a visionary, but the thoughts that we have tremendous potential in many of our small rural towns had been striking me quite often. When I wrote my novel: WHAT IF OUR DREAMS COME TRUE! I envisaged that we created a marketing link for many of the rural products - such as the coral mats from Pathamadai, palmyrah tree products, cloth bags and art crafts, the decorative, cute, little dolls made out of clay for the Navrathri celebrations, mangoes and mango extracts from Kalakkad and many more- from the entire Tirunelveli region. We need better and more creative design and finishing, use of current technology, training of youth and so on. The businesses are run on traditional methods, controlled by a handful of families in select pockets. The worst of all, there is no price support for the products; they are sold away mostly for non remunerative prices.

In this context, I only recollect my own personal experience while working for a bank in the North-eastern states. The rural farmers, who were engaged in producing citronola oil from the grass which grew wildly everywhere in the tea gardens after one harvest, used outdated technology and sold their oil for throwaway prices to middlemen who had virtually bonded them by exploiting their economic weaknesses. These middlemen, in turn, sold the oil in Mumbai at very high prices to pharmaceutical companies and mad huge profits. We tried to intervene, ably supported by one of the central government sponsored marketing organization, by providing them seed finance for their operations and linking the sale of their products to the government marketing organization. We went to the farmers' doorsteps where they extracted the oil, even under a threat of physical assault by unknown middlemen. The farmers, though welcomed our initiatives, were scared of the middlemen and for losing their longstanding, traditional support. We collected only a small quantity of the oil, but we made the point. The very next week, the middlemen doubled the offer price for the oil and the farmers were pleased.

A similar experience resulted regarding selling oranges in Tinsukia, and ginger, pine apple and coconut in Tripura. It was a successful experiment, though they couldn't be continued on a long term basis. Farmers and rural producers want remunerative prices for their products.

Our handloom industry is one of the unique industries, providing employment to millions of people. It requires support in terms of technology, raw material at reasonable prices, cash flow, marketing their products, skill development and training. I know many government sponsored organizations have been set up, but they all seemed to riddled with nepotism, corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency as many newspaper reports repeatedly claim.

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