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Villagers end up spending more on urban products

Ch. Prashanth Reddy

HYDERABAD, Sept. 18

HOW much does a typical Indian village of 1,000 households, on an average, spend on goods and services that are not produced or available locally? According to one estimate, it could be as much as Rs 70 lakh per annum.

Farmers, agricultural labourers and others in rural areas earn their livelihood from agriculture, milk production, vegetable production, poultry, etc. However, they are spending their income on simple household items such as masala powders, washing soap, detergent powder, biscuits, chocolates and clothes. They are purchasing even items such as mirchi and turmeric powder, papads and pickles from the urban markets.

They also spend large amounts on repair and maintenance of electric motors, pesticide sprayers, television sets, fans, gas stoves, mixers and cookers.

They depend on the urban market not only for these services, but also for many other items such as bed sheets, curtains, bicycles, two-wheelers and three-wheelers.

The villages, which were once called self-sufficient economies, are now outsourcing all non-agricultural goods and services. Even basic services such as tailoring, carpentry, plumbing and masonry were being outsourced from the urban areas.

The Federation of Farmers' Associations of Andhra Pradesh, which made a study in this regard in Gummadidala village of Medak district in the State, found that villagers spent around Rs 25 lakh on detergent powder alone, besides purchasing Rs 35 lakh worth of packed food material and soft drinks per annum. The daily sale of soft drinks in the village account for over Rs 2,000 and the average expenditure of a household on clothes per annum ranged between Rs 1,500 and Rs 4,000.

Mr P. Chengal Reddy, Honarary Chairman of the Federation, say that it is high time that villagers are made self-sustaining in their household needs, household- and agri-service sectors. Skills should be imparted to the villagers so as to ensure that basic services such as tailoring, carpentry, plumbing and repairing of agricultural and household equipment are available to them.

The villagers themselves should be able to produce basic food ingredients and a major portion of the village income should rotate among the villagers.

With this objective, he says, the federation has come out with a proposal for the establishment of mobile rural training centres. The project envisages identification of various activities that can be taken up by the villagers and provision of multiple training/skills to each person depending on his or her background and need.

The federation has, so far, imparted training to 70 women in the village in tailoring. It has also given on loan 15 sewing machines to those interested in pursuing a career in tailoring. These women were also given training in making and packaging various kinds of sweets and pickles. Two of these women told Business Line that they had been selling their products in the village itself so far. Now, they wanted to explore the urban market and had sought the support of the federation in marketing, they added.

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