Spring is in the air and Rongali Bihu festivities are just round the corner. Villages and towns throughout the State are echoing with drum beats, accompanied by sweet strains of the pepa, toka and gogo. Young girls are filising the colourful dresses and orments with which they will be turning out for Bihu dances. Locally made fine silk riha, mekhela and chador are costly, while other fineries like gaam kharu, kopou phool, doog-doogi, golpota and jonbiri also come at a price. To meet this huge demand, Chi-made orments which are passable replicas of the locally made items, are flooding the markets here. Their designs are attractive, though the material is not very durable. But the difference in prices makes it a no-contest between locally made and imported varieties. For example, locally made gaam kharu costs Rs 150 to Rs 200 per pair, but the Chinese variety costs around one-fourth at Rs 30-40. The same thing happens during Diwali, when customers sp up Chi-made colourful lights at highly affordable prices. Much hue and cry is raised for opening the local markets to such cheap foreign imports. But in these days of high prices, why will not customers try to economise whenever there are cheaper options? Only when goods compete in quality and price, can healthy markets be built up. How come Chinese producers are aware of what we want to buy, while we are so ignorant about their markets? Prime Minister rendra Modi in his Independence Day speech last year, had called upon the country’s youths to identify at least one product from our import list, and resolve to make a better and cheaper domestic product. This is how a state like Gujarat has progressed so fast, with its government deserving credit for building a business-friendly environment. Like the people of Japan, Chi and other Asian countries did earlier, it is now time for us Indians to ‘make in India’ for ourselves as well as the world. We may rightly oppose dumping of cheap foreign goods and unfair business practices of multitiol companies, but how long can we turn our backs to competition by always seeking protection? The state governments of Assam and other NE states should encourage local producers, or else they will always bear the burden of the unemployed while our markets are taken over by ‘outsiders’.
food for thought