To explore and investigate the lifestyle of our very own rural India has always been a nice experience and wonderful journey. Whenever I visit any part of the country, I am always fascinated by the culture, tradition and day to day activities of the rural people. I usually believe that one of the most precious things in our country is the beauty of rural life. I genuinely don’t want village life to lose its charm. My concern is that the fast-growing urban life may end up digesting the charm of rural life.
Today’s generation is completely dependent on leading virtual lives, where everything is possible with a single touch on the mobile phone and everything is delivered to their doorstep. But I’m worried that this technological advancement may end up eradicating village life. When I visited the first ever and only weekly village market nurtured by Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Project (SVEP) at Bodhgaya in Bihar, I could see the significance and importance of a weekly hut in a rural India. Urban marketplaces, meanwhile, are losing their value and importance with the evolution of digital life. Due to online shopping, people rarely need to visit markets and bargain over good.
Chandni Village Organization (VO) is a self-driven women’s self-help group in Bihar. It formed under Jeevika and came forward to build a small weekly hut in the village. The villagers were facing drastic challenges to get their daily commodities and ration from nearby markets like Cherki and Bodhgaya, which were nearly 15 km away from the village.
Though villagers raised their voice in the gram panchayat, the issue wasn’t solved. But when there is a will, there is a way.
Though the local government had neglected their genuine demand, the VO didn’t lose hope and showed the power of unity. Chandni VO took the initiative to solve the issue by starting a small weekly market in the centre of the village. Being a part of Jeevika, they had a good networking system inside as well as outside the village.
They took the benefit of the ongoing Micro-Enterprise Consultant (MEC) and SVEP in the village to start their weekly market. Mithilesh Kumar is a local boy of the village who was emotionally touched with the issues the people were facing. So, he took the bold step to come forward to solve the issue. For the villagers, it was like their dream to have a full-fledged market in their villages where they could earn some money by selling their goods. Mithilesh, who was inspired by his mentor Vijayarani Kollam, started the weekly market in the village. Vijayarani Kollam, who hails from Kudumbashree Kerala, is also equally passionate to solve the issues of the villagers.
While Interviewing Mithilesh, we were informed that it was a challenging journey for him, as well as everyone, to achieve a full-fledged weekly market in the village. He was the sole rider of the show who has given his full effort to see to the happiness of the people.
In the starting phase of the journey, Vijayarani Kollam and he walked miles every day to mobilise entrepreneurship for the market. They conducted meetings in every SHG group of the village and inspired them to make the initiative a successful one. In order to publicise the initiative and spread the message across the villages, they made a public announcement using the microphone.
In spite of all the effort, villagers found it difficult to believe that the plan would work. They needed to understand that it was a community ownership initiative. If a community unites with selfless motives, then it would definitely bear fruit.
After successfully completing all the requisite process with the support of the VO, they decided to start the market on every Wednesday in the village. The most heartbreaking day for them was the first Wednesday when everything was set for the inauguration of the market and no entrepreneur had turned up except for a gup-chup (paani puri) selling guy.
But both Mithilesh and Vijayarani did not lose their hope and patience. They again started their journey with a different approach. This time, they grabbed a few entrepreneurs from the nearby market of Cherki and Bodhgaya and invited them to the village market. On the next Wednesday, the entrepreneurs who they had invited to the market came to sell their goods in the village.
By looking at this, the villagers started coming out from their home to sell their goods. Slowly, on the same day, they could see a different picture of the market – and they could actually visualise the market being successful. Now, every Wednesday in the afternoon, various entrepreneurs from the villages come with their goods and sell their products in the market. As per the record, there are nearly 45 Micro-Enterprises (ME) who have permanently fixed their position in the market.
The market comprises of all household commodities, starting from seasonal vegetables to handicraft items like bamboo-made baskets and wooden showpieces. Apart from that, the fascinating thing is that there are quite a few women entrepreneurs running the business of preparing local fish and chicken curry dishes on the spot.
The market has been becoming the only sole recreational place for the local people, where everyone, irrespective of caste and religion, participates. The people usually eagerly wait for the day to pass their leisure time and chit- chat with their closed ones.
A major concern of the entrepreneurs right now is that they are struggling for water as there is no water body or water pump available near to the location. Apart from that, they don’t have well-built sheds to sit under, which may affect their market in the rainy season.
Chandni VO, which is overall in charge of the market and monitors the activities of the market, has stated that in order to solve the issue, they have started collecting ₹10 from every entrepreneur and the collected money will be utilised for building sheds and a water pump in the market with the help of the SVEP.
This is the only weekly market in the entirety of Bihar which has been started by a women’s village organisation, under the support of Jeevika and SVEP. This is the incredible journey of a women-led community institution which is exemplary for everyone. It proves that anything possible if you believe in the power within yourself.
“I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa.