Tribal women of Manipur are forced to sell their produce out in the open.
In Imphal, tribal women sell vegetables on streets everyday to earn a living. They do not have a roof where they can gather as a proper market. The building that the government started constructing is still not completed. Until it is ready, the women continue selling their wares on roadsides.
Imphal has one main market. It is situated in a large building with adequate space, light and water facilities. It was constructed by the the Meitei, the majority community in Imphal. This community is averse to mixing with tribals, and thus tribal women cannot join the others in the large marketplace.
Our Community Correspondent Achungmei Kamei tells Video Volunteers that for every 2 tribals in Imphal, there are around 10 Meitei community people. Although there are hardly any instances of violence between the minority and majority, tribal people are not treated with respect by the Meiteis. Due to this discrimination, tribal women have no choice but to set up vegetable stalls wherever they find space to sit. This is not easy because the police drive them away if they are caught selling on streets.
The structure for the marketplace is almost ready: the foundation is laid out, and only electricity, water and other basic facilities need to be set up. Achungmei visited the tribal organization that has taken over its construction. Unfortunately, she says it reeked of bureaucracy and red tape-ism, and those in charge kept passing the buck on to someone else.
Tribal women of Imphal desperately need a separate marketplace of their own so as to feel secure and regularize their income. The vegetables they sell are usually fresh hill vegetables, unlike what the Meitei community sells. The tribal population in Imphal is growing steadily and these women have to cater to their palates, as tribal cuisine is slightly different from Meitei cuisine. “What upsets me the most is that these hard working women don’t have a voice against this injustice. All they are trying to do is earn a basic living.”
– Rajyashri Goody