Imphal, Nov 8: If you are in Imphal, Manipur you simply can't skip visiting the legendary ima keithel (mothers' market) where women vendors belonging to all age groups sit together and sell vegetables, fruits and clothes. In fact, Imphal has three such markets.
The vibrancy and legacy associated with these markets make them robust places where women rule the roost. With around 4,000-odd vendors, mothers' markets in Imphal are the only trading complexes in the world solely run by women.
These women are not just small traders earning their livelihood with pride and dignity but are also agents of social changes as most of them are activists too. It's the women vendors who have always been in the forefront to protest against the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and demand the implementation of inner-line permit, among others.
Thus most of the vendors have strong opinions about social, political and economic issues impacting the nation and the state.
So, when the nation observed the first anniversary of demonetisation on Wednesday, the women vendors of ima keithel recalled the horrific experiences they had because of the Narendra Modi government's "economic masterstroke".
The women vendors said that the immediate impact of demonetisation almost shut their businesses. They could not even earn half of what they used to do pre-demonetisation days for at least five-six months after note ban.
The things are yet to get normalised as business in these markets have slowed down a lot since November 8 last year when the PM announced scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.
"I could not sell fish for many days. As a result, I could not pay my son's examination fees. He could not appear for his Class IX exam. He will sit for the exam this academic year," Tongbram Ibethoi, a fish vendor was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
After her husband died in a road accident a few years ago, Ibethoi is the sole breadwinner for her family.
Another vendor recalling the "tragedy" said, "We all suffered. We did not sell anything for days. Customers gave Rs 2,000 notes and we did not have change to return. My son, who was undergoing a cinematography course in Delhi at the time, had to forego meals as I could not send money."
"We thought our families would not survive. Thankfully we survived and are happy that things became normal. But we will not forgive the authorities who caused immense suffering to people like me," she added.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, vice chancellor of Ashoka University, in a column for The Indian Express, noted that "it (demonetisation) was a populist measure, done in the name of the poor. But like many revolutions done in the name of the poor, it hurt them by extracting the highest price from them".
While former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Gujarat on Tuesday once again called demonetisation "organised loot and legalised plunder", finance minister Arun Jaitley insisted that the country had moved on to a much cleaner, transparent and honest financial system since the note ban was announced by PM Modi on November 8 last year by deciding to scrap high-value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of demonetisation on Wednesday, the Centre has decided to celebrate the day as "anti-black money day". The Opposition, as a mark of protest, will observe the day as "black day".