Slowdown stories from India's heartland -Sayantan Bera

With sliding incomes, rural households are struggling to stay afloat and are curtailing consumption of essential goods

Vidisha/ New Delhi:
Ram Babu, who runs a hole-in-the-wall grocery store in Nateran village nestled deep inside Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district, doubles up as a daily wager. However, with villagers cutting on small purchases, sales in his shop are down. Moreover, landless households dependent on wage labour are unable to find work—a day of hard labour gets one as little as ?150, yet there are no takers.

“I have sold only three packets of biscuits over the past month and people have stopped buying soaps and shampoos," Babu said, pointing to five-rupee packs of Parle-G biscuits stacked in a shelf. The fastest-selling item in Babu’s store is also the cheapest: a locally produced packaged snack called “Munna Bhai" which costs Rs. 1 (yes, you read that right) per packet. “They are a hit with children."

An hour-long drive from Nateran, the courtyard of farmer Mohar Singh’s house evokes a certain rustic charm. Cattle are munching on stacks of hay, the mud house is whitewashed as his elder son was married some months ago, and there are inviting charpoys next to a giant pipal tree. But all it takes is a brief conversation with Singh, who lives with his family of four in Barmani village, for him to lay bare his worries: bank loans of Rs.500,000; soybean and pulses crop destroyed by excess rains; credit from grocery stores running over Rs.50,000 which he has to pay back with 2% monthly interest.

Please click here to read more., 12 September, 2019,

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