A Case for Ethical Shopping

POST Covid world will be a different one in many dimensions.  Politics, economics, society and government will not be transformed but will be impacted. On the level of economics, in the less developed contexts, life will be(and is)hard for the underprivileged and the vulnerable. The privileged and the laa dee daa classes will shop online and buy their Armani belts or Gucci shoes online. Oh yeah, Amazon will even return the product if it does fit a given indulgence, say a set of Burberry sunglasses with anti- glare for added effect. They will, if and when cooking by domestic help become bored, order exotic foods online. (Momos anyone? Or makhmali kebabs?). But what will the daily wage of vulnerable people do? In the context of Kashmir, can society help, while maintaining their dignity and even pride?

A lot, is the answer.

In the context of Kashmir which is neither a productive economy nor an advanced one, consumption is the name of the game. But consumption takes a hit when the broader economy is reeling under pressure(s), especially extraordinary and unprecedented ones like the Covid pandemic. When this happens, the underprivileged and the vulnerable- the redi wallas( who earn on a daily basis) , or the corner store that sells, say crockery or shoes, or Tupperware suffer. Given that end of the day, society is composed of ‘self interested’ individuals , the vulnerable actually have nowhere to go. They are already on shoestring budgets; how much can they scrimp and save?(There’s no bank account as well. The economically marginalized are excluded by banking systems).

If a crisis, like Covid, gets prolonged, what options do the vulnerable have?

Crime is one. The other is cheating.Both not only have negative social returns but also degrade both the victim and the perpetrator.

Under these circumstances, it is society that has to rise to the occasion.

How?

Not merely by charity. There are other ways to boost consumption and thereby help the vulnerable.

One prudent and effective social intervention is ethical shopping. While definitions of ethical shopping vary, I will use one that is appropriate for the purpose: ‘ ethical shopping can be a form of consumption where a given good or service is almost superfluous to a shopper’s needs but can help the seller and where the motivation and intent is to help the seller’.

How can ethical shopping work in Kashmir?

While naysayers and cynics will invent a host of reasons to discredit ethical shopping in Kashmir, but , honestly it works to the benefit of both the shopper( consumer) and the seller. What can you do as a conscientious shopper?

If you are in the precincts of Lal Chowk, for example, you can hail an auto rickshaw to Jehangir Chowk. After you hail it, don’t argue and haggle with the rickshaw walla. Engage him in polite conversation till you reach your destination. When you disembark, and when the auto walla fumbles for change, don’t insist on it. In fact, pay 20 or 30 rupees more as a tip. Smile and wave goodbye or salaam.

Wander to Batmaloo. You’ll definitely be accosted by a bag seller. Stop, inspect the bag and pay the seller – inevitably a very poor person who’s probably moonlighting, the full amount. For mere effect, tell him, he’s ripped you off and smile.

Return to Residency Road and stop by the vendor stalls. Pick, for example , a piece of artificial jewellery. Praise the stuff. Pick one or two items. Ask for the price. Pretend to haggle but then pay the full price.

These are just a few instances that you, as an ethical shopper, can do your bit to help. There’s other stuff you can devise and help.

I am telling you, no matter how bad your day has(had) been, you’ll feel decidedly better if you shop ethically. In fact, you may even feel happy. I say this from experience: I am not boasting, and I should not be stating this publicly. But I shopped ethically today. I had been on a bit of an emotional low since the past couple of days. But after taking recourse to ethical shopping, I not only felt better but I also made new friends. All, as they say, in a day’s work!


The author can be reached at [email protected]

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Wajahat Qazi

Masters with Distinction in International Relations from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Worked as Associate Editor of Kashmir Observer.

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