In news– External Affairs minister visited Manipur’s Ima market and called it a “great example of nari shakti (women’s power) powering economic growth”.
What is special about Manipur’s Ima market?
- Ima Keithel, or Mothers’ Market, is an all-women market, said to be the largest such shopping complex in Asia.
- A unique all women’s market, having 3,000 “Imas” or mothers who run the stalls, it is split [into] two sections on either side of the road.
- Vegetables, fruits, fish and household groceries are sold on one side and exquisite handlooms and household tools on the other.
- Not far away is a street where beautiful wicker works and basketry are sold.
- Male vendors and shopkeepers are barred here. In 2018, the state government announced that legal action would be taken under the Manipur Municipalities Act, 2004 if any male vendor was found selling goods at the market.
- While the Keithel was earlier a collection of stalls, in 2010, the government moved it to the Khwairamband Bazaar, where it has taken a more organised and safer shape.
- The Ima Market is centuries-old, and has its origins in Lallup Kaba, an ancient bonded labour system.
- Under the system, Meitei men had to compulsorily serve some time working in the military and on other civil projects, keeping them away from home.
- The women, thus, were left to manage on their own, and they developed a market system which is today the Ima Keithel.
- While the system is centuries-old, it had continued till the time of the British.
- Policies of the British government had interfered with the functioning of the Ima market too, but were met with stiff resistance from the women.
- The Meitei people, also known as the Manipuri people, is the predominant ethnic group of Manipur in Northeast India.
- They speak Meitei language, one of the 22 official languages of the Indian Republic and the sole official language of Manipur.
- The Meiteis primarily settled in the Imphal Valley region in modern-day Manipur, though a sizable population has settled in the other Indian states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.
- There is also a notable presence of Meitei in the neighboring countries of Myanmar and Bangladesh.