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5 Jul 2017

Short on cash, Hills bank on barter

Distribution of food items to the needy
Source: Facebook
Tamaghna Banerjee | TNN | Jul 5, 2017, Darjeeling: Green vegetables in exchange for biscuits and rice, fuel for liquor, fruits for flour and milk for nutrition bars and chocolates.
Over the last three weeks, people in the Hills have started adopting unique measures to sustain themselves, thanks to depleting stocks of food and hard cash. For ages, the Nepali-speaking population in the Hills have relied on a unique "exchange plan" of sorts to tide over tough times — when in need, people don't hesitate to approach their neighbours for cereals or flour, only to return the exact quantities when things improve. Now, they have moved a step ahead and turned to barter.
Biju Rai, who runs a stationery shop near the old TV station in Darjeeling, had stacked four crates of biscuits along with other items two days before the strike. When the shutdown began, he had ample resources but hardly any vegetables or cash.
"Biscuits have become extremely prized in these circumstances. So, I have started trading the biscuit packets for vegetables like tomatoes, watercress and pumpkin from a local vegetable seller, who grows vegetables in her own farm," Rai said.
Another stationary shop owner in Chawkbazar, who requested anonymity, said locals regularly knock on his doors after dusk — his home is adjacent to the shop — to ask for daily requirements like salt, sugar and flour.
"Over the past two days, people have started running short of cash. Yesterday, I gave away a kg of salt and sugar each to a local for four apples and six bananas. I think I made a good deal since fruits have disappeared from the market," he said.
A woman who continues to sell momos, thukpas and homemade breadsticks near the Darjeeling Sadar Hospital as her establishment is out of the purview of the strike as she caters to patients and their relatives, said how an elderly woman came to her with an ailing grandson and little money to pay and offered her some beans, green chillies and bitter-gourd grown in her kitchen garden. "I didn't take the vegetables though and told her to pay later for the food," she said.
Liquor outlets in the Hills were shut down by the administration well before the indefinite bandh started as officials felt liquor could be used as a bait by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders to mobilise mobs. But the locals have found a way to procure liquor bottles from Sikkim or the plains and these are selling at a premium.
"I had stacked a few bottles of liquor last week but had to trade a bottle of Old Monk rum for five litres of petrol from a pump owner who had no liquor stock. He has promised me more fuel if I can continue to supply liquor," said Prakash Thapa, who ran out of fuel for his bike.
A regular face at the motor stand in Darjeeling, Ratna Maan, who sells milk and watercress said he is accepting nutrition bars and chocolates from those who don't have cash. "I have brothers at home, who love chocolates and nutrition bars. Since, they are hard to find now, I accept them," he said.
GJM leaders said they are aware of the barter system and called it a form of "improvisation" on the part of residents. "Hills people are always ready to improvise. They are helping each other by exchanging goods of daily use. But they are also determined to continue with the strike and endure sufferings to attain the larger goal - Gorkhaland," said Kalyan Dewan, a senior GJM leader and convenor of Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee.
(Source & Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/short-on-cash-hills-bank-on-barter/articleshow/59448777.cms)

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