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Assam ginger farmers use plastic money

Carrying cash can be a liability in militant country. So 3,500 small and marginal ginger farmers became possessors of the G-Card or the ginger card. Rahul Karmakar tells us...

business Updated: Dec 09, 2007 22:56 IST
Rahul Karmakar

Carrying cash can be a liability in militant country. So, farmers in a remote, guerrilla-infested district in Assam have gone for the next best option—a “spicy” debit-cum-credit card.

Eight months after forming a growers’ group, some 3,500 small and marginal ginger farmers in Karbi Anglong district became possessors of the G-Card here last week. G-Card, specific to the pungent ginger, is India’s first commodity-based debit-cum-credit card that allows holders in remote rural areas to go cashless for almost everything.

Take the case of David Chongloi, a ginger farmer in the district’s remote Singhason belt. Offloading his produce at the local mandi was a risky proposition given the propensity of militants to readily deduct “revolutionary taxes” on cash transactions. Now, he hopes to breathe easy with the all-purpose G-Card that enables him to sell ginger, buy essentials, and get technical support and the desirable market linkage.

For fellow farmer Leader Tisso from the Jirikinding area, the small yellow card carrying his photograph is like a magic wand. “My area is relatively free from militant trouble, so I might not need this card as much as the others,” he says. But what matters most for him is that the G-Card entails him to a loan of Rs 10,000 to expand his ginger farm beyond the 2 bighas he owns.

“It took some time to convince farmers about the advantages of plastic money, a variation of the Kisan Credit Card,” says M. Angamuthu, Karbi Anglong deputy commissioner and the brain behind the Ginger Growers Cooperative Marketing Federation Ltd (Ginfed). “Strictly for Ginfed members possessing 2 bighas or less land, the G-Card is bar-coded and tamper-proof and is a veritable door-opener,” he adds. Besides doubling up as an identity card for ginger growers, the G-Card has made most of them bank account holders for the very first time. Each card mentions the branch of the State Bank of India or the Langpi-Dehangi Rural Bank that is nearest to the cardholder.