By Smita Ram, Rang De Team
The free markets come with a promise of freedom and democracy. But how ‘free’ are the markets? With social inequity and the bargaining power to purchase and sell being held with a few, there is very little that the vast majority of Indians can do but become victims of the exploitative nature of the markets. Years of imbalance in this equation has resulted in a rapid decline in the economic abilities of several communities. Be it the weaver in Manipur who is exploited by the middlemen because the weaver has no access to market or the capital to invest, or a farmer in Karnataka left at the mercy of the sugar mill owners. So much so that some of our traditional activities of production are no longer being considered viable or even sustainable.
While many of us think, there could be no end to this power struggle — there are several individuals who care about this inequity — in fact, they care about it so deeply that they have gone on to not just question this relationship but tried to tilt the balance a bit.
Just Change — an initiative that we got to partner with recently was started with the objective of upsetting the status quo. Several adivasis many who were rendered landless began to grow tea. A simple activity that definitely contributed to not just a disproportionate change in self esteem but made the adivasis become an integral part of the markets.
Started, several years ago, Just Change is no longer confined to one geography. Just Change has become a movement that is spreading like wild fire. It is a producer group consisting of thousands of adivasis and farmers in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha. The producer group operates with the notion of leveraging the power of collectives, the group aggregates its produce and sells it amongst its members and beyond in order to get a fair price.
Just Change India is head quartered in Gudalur, Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, was established to foster a more equitable, just and sustainable economy for farmers. JCIPC aims to create direct links right across the economic chain — from labourers and producers all the way through to consumers and investors and enabling them to participate in the economy in a cooperative manner rather than a competitive one.
We are so honoured to be part of this movement and play a role, along with our social investors in providing the much needed capital to help the group procure large quantities of honey, groundnuts and other products that are in demand locally. You can participate as a social investor and pledge your support.
We also have the privilege of having amidst us Stan Thakeakera — one of the founding members of Just Change on 19th September at Paradigm Shift at 3.30 pm.
Do join us to hear the story of Just Change and how we are all set to break the balance of power.