Last week, a Rang Deevaluation took me to Surendranagar, a quaint little town in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. I later on learnt that Surendranagar is indeed a district. But if you were to visit Surendranagar, I am sure you will have several questions that I had — Is this a part of Gujarat? Can this be a district ? and so on.The questions I experienced became deeper and more significant when I interacted with borrowers who had taken a Rang De loan.
There were borrowers who were refurbishing old clothes and selling it to make a living. Every week Nituben and her husband travel to Ahmedabad to purchase old, discarded clothes from the market. I remember many years ago, old clothes used to be given away in exchange for utensils. It is from such dealers that Nitu and her husband purchase clothes. These are washed, ironed and sold at a decent profit margin.
There were others who were involved in ‘bandhni work’. When most of us women really swear by bandhni and love the intricate patterns, there were several house wives across Surendranagar who were involved in making these patterns for a small commission. This work is outsourced to them from shops and contractors and in order for this to happen, hefty deposits need to be paid.
I also had the opportunity to meet Hetal who weaves foot mats that are sold in Ahmedabad. She and her two sisters have followed their mother’s foot steps and help in keeping the business going. Hetal could have easily been in college and I am sure would have been in the top ten if she had the opportunity.
And then there was the mother and daughter duo who were involved in packing Agarbatti and selling it for a margin. The volumes that this mother and daughter have managed to accomplish is beyond one’s imagination. Amidst all the backwardness, I saw that the aspiration of women to move out of their current economic condition was high. But I do not see how without giving people the access to information, education and market linkages things would change.
I recently read an article where someone had commented that there is a lot of hope for India in the future because of the growing population of youth. I would put it this way, there is no hope for any of us until we create opportunities for employment and equitable distribution of wealth. How else would you explain Surendranagar amidst a Vibrant Gujarat? And we all know that this is true not just for Gujarat.