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Assam goes to market

| Updated on May 22, 2020 Published on May 22, 2020

Now that open-air weekly bazaars have almost all been suspended, a paean to Assam’s local haats, the go-to place for organic produce and traditional handicrafts

There is something magical about weekly markets. Across the country, these mostly open-air markets are held in one specific area on a particular day of the week. Here, you get all kinds of products — from fresh vegetables and pickles in plastic packets to clothes and utensils. The deadly virus that has brought life to a standstill in many parts of India has felled these markets, too. In most big cities, the haats, as they are known, have been suspended. In Assam, the saptahik bazaar — or weekly market — has also been called off, though small vegetable markets continue to attract customers.

The saptahik bazaar plays an important role in sustaining the local economy and in fostering the relationship between the economy and society. The needs of the people are fulfilled locally, and sellers earn their livelihood by catering to these demands.

Some of these markets also function as a wholesale outlet or a small mandi. Many of the produce are organic, which is why there is a great demand for vegetables and fruits. People from urban or semi-urban areas are eager to buy village products, while villagers look out for what the urban areas have to offer. For locally produced goods, weekly markets are the gateway to the larger marketing network.

Most of these markets in Assam are in the rural or semi-urban areas. People from surrounding villages sell their products, as do traders from outside the local area. Some of these markets sell purely tribal products, though most have a mix of both tribal and non-tribal offerings. These markets also serve as a link between people from rural and urban Assam.

The people of Assam tend to hold on to tradition — and the weekly haats are repositories of traditional art and craft. You get farming equipment, fishing accessories or old-style furniture. The markets play a significant role in the economy of the region. It is a tax collection system for the local authority. For many small vendors, it is a lifeline. And for every visitor, it is a delightful mélange of colour and sound.

Partha Pratim Sharma

Published on May 22, 2020