Postcards: Focus on Women in Rythu Bazaar, Hyderabad

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Rythu or Raitha bazaar are farmer’s markets , started by Telengana government (Andhra Pradesh, India) in 1999. This model was begun to provide adequate, correct and proper facilities to the small-scale farmer’s. And to enable sale of vegetables and fruits on a fresh, daily basis at fixed rates. In turn, this would help cut the middle men, who often exploited the farmers for personal profits. The market model would be beneficial to both farmer’s and consumers, alike.

A number of Rythu bazaars are set up around Hyderabad, after considering factor’s such as site, farmer’s land, types of growth, procurement and transport facilities, neighbourhood businesses, hospitals, schools that will buy wholesale fresh produce, proper roads, lighting, sewage and toilet facilities in the constructed bazaar site,  and above all identification and proper information of the farmer’s that will benefit from these markets.

But not all is rosy and cheerful, even today. There are many problems that still persist in many of these bazaars, said the farmer’s and other vendors.

On my visit to the Shamsabad Rythu bazaar, I tried to engage and see the women folk and their activities in the market.

Here are some questions that rushed to my mind.

  • What is the role of the woman in this bazaar or business?
  • What skills /expertise does she need to survive here?
  • What facilities are provided by her family or the government?
  • Is she a primary or secondary bread winner? Why?

Hope these snapshots give some clues, or provoke other thoughts?

1. Many women folk working here rise as early as 4am to complete their morning chores.They then walk to the nearby Rythu bazaar, carrying fresh greens or vegetables they have collected the previous evening from their small farms and piling it on their rented stall. A joint effort by family members to layout produce and sell. But, age and back problems will soon be their friends, they moan!

Women balancing loads on their heads on way to market

Women balancing loads on their heads on way to market

2. Nagamma, the middle-aged lady assists her daughter daily. Her family members gather, sort and make bundles of the popular leafy Gongura or Amaranth, from their land from morning to dusk. Next morning piling it into large plastic bags, one member delivers it to the bazaar. Today’s selling price: Rs. 10 for 5 bundles.What could be her daily price? What is her profit? She does not pay platform rental.

Her daughter comes to collect the total sum at mid day after selling her own seasonal vegetables separately in wholesale on the constructed platform nearby. Nagamma is happy to sell her small bag full  and collect her daily wages and live with respect in her daughter’s house.

Woman vendor selling green leafy vegetables at fixed price

Woman vendor selling green leafy vegetables at fixed price

3. This elderly couple smiled when I asked them to pose. They thought I was a newspaper reporter who could write about their complaints and problems to the government 🙂

Today’s price for mangoes: Rupees 30 per kilo. But they knew middle men posed as consumers and bought 20- 30 kilos and sold it elsewhere in the city at a higher price of Rupees 50 -80 a kilo, making large profits.

The woman was employed by an orchard owner as seasonal contract labour. They need to find other work after the season, or help in tending to the gardens and plant growth.

Couple selling seasonal Banganpalli mangoes, fresh on a cart

Couple selling seasonal Banganpalli mangoes, fresh on a cart

4. The Banjara woman, in traditional ethnic tribal clothes is a ‘coolie’ or helper. Once her job of lifting bags and delivering them is over, she cashes her pay, then visits various stalls to find a bargain , before heading off to other construction sites for labour work. As she has no farms, or ability in farming, nor good language and communication she earns a living doing physical labour.

The vendor lady, in contrast, was a successful, quick business woman, with not much patience for loose talk or photos. She sold raw mangoes in wholesale. Here regular customers were nearby restaurants and hotels that confirmed a week’s supply and payment, even if daily prices differed. The mango in the picture is not a ‘free bargain’ for the Banjara lady, but I had to promise to buy it later.

2 women pose. One a vendor , other a buyer

2 women pose. One a vendor , other a buyer

5. What happens if you are not from the farming community? As an outsider, its unlikely you are welcomed  by the community. Nevertheless, seasonal rains provided the answer. This lady sets up her road side shop and awaits the occasional customer. As she has not paid any rent for the place, she needs to keep an eye for the policeman or governing body and shut shop briskly. Till then…sip tea and wait!

Woman selling seasonal products like umbrellas

Woman selling seasonal products like umbrellas

6. Government bodies fix the market price of the produce for the day, making announcements on the loudspeaker. This woman manages her stall all alone. She needs to juggle between selling, carting and counting cash. A minute’s hesitation and slack can cost her hundreds of rupees, as her immediate neighbours sell tomatoes too. Quality vs. quality.

But regular buyers need to be looked after, as well as the odd middleman. There was no chance of buying a meagre 2 kilo here, one had to buy bulk from 10 kilo- upwards. The mathematics learned on the street was faster than in a classroom, experience and need being the immediate teachers. No computers and calculators here!

Counting cash and striking bargains with the customer

Counting cash and striking bargains with the customer

7. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

The Banjara woman belongs to a robust, nomadic tribe that is found all over the Deccan plateau region and neighbouring states. They are believed to be descendants of the Roma gypsies of Europe. Known for their folklores, colourful costumes of Ghagra -cholis or long skirt and blouse and elaborate jewellery the women are strong and tall. They wear heavy silver or brass anklets, often weighing them down. As a nomadic community, they live off labour work. They are experts in basket weaving, embroidery and selling jewellery or articles made from natural products such as shells, metals, rice and grass.

Banjara woman (coolie)

Banjara woman (coolie)

Shy, at first, her fellow people told her to pose, citing it as an honour to the community. She quickly rearranged her head cover, as is customary. She is the group’s singer and rendered a small couplet when prodded. Tribals bond together around winter fires with folklores, singing, dancing, a vibrant and healthy pastime.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject ? How are women’s roles different in the markets in your country ?

For another post on market vendors at Al Mina market, Abu Dhabi,  see here.

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2015) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer

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About Veena S.

'Travel broadens the mind.' I've been lucky to have travelled to many countries and also lived in a few. At times, it was a great eye opener, at times it was making new friends across the oceans. Embracing cultures, learning new cuisines and admiring different costumes has been a rewarding journey this long. At home I enjoy cooking, quilting and story telling.

8 responses »

  1. What a vivid and informative article on these cooperative farmers market run by women. It must be a glorious experience shopping all fresh produce. The Banjara women are amazing. Their handicrafts are awesome. It’s great to see these ladies smile inspite of living such hard and laborious lives.

  2. Khoop chhan ! Airport varoon ghari yetana vatet ji Rayatu bazar la bhet dilis tyache sarthak ase keles !Va va !!

  3. very vivid Description! I think the women’s role is the same everywhere and in every field. doing so much without recognition!

  4. Very informative and insightful blog. It brings out the resourcefulness these women have and all that they do to make a living. Pictures are nice and colourful.

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