Friday, 12 July, 2024, Reg No- 06
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Price gouging to make consumers boycott products

Published : Monday, 24 June, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 236

“Quite recently the question of Maldives versus Lakshadweep also shows another form of a boycott. Boycotts are not being used in recent times only. We in this regard can talk about Gandhis Swadeshi movement, which was born to boycott products of the East India Company to oust the colonizers and buttress the local economy”

In Bangladesh, business syndicates pose a big threat to consumers. People become victims of price hikes caused by multifarious factors like extortion on the road, desire to make more profit, seasonal shortages, food habits, and lack of empathy for the peasants. Capitalism as a universal idiom of profit maximization has made inroads in every corner of the world. No part is left untouched. And Bangladesh is no exception. The soaring price of onions, fowl eggs, and potatoes has left consumers outraged quite recently.

Consumers must deal with the precarious and erratic market system manipulated by a handful of businessmen and some consumers and retail traders attitudes toward hoarding. In this context, the helpless situation of the consumers seems to be replaced with confident decisions not to include the item having a price hike in their menu for a while. In the recent price hikes of various commodities, consumers have shown their power by boycotting watermelon. And in no time the price of watermelon came within the reach of consumers. Now people are rallying for boycotting beef so that the price becomes more reasonable for the consumers. A local meat trader came to the limelight by selling beef at a lower price.

People have a point. The simple logic is if consumers stop buying the product going to be expensive, then the price will come down. I was thinking about the whole situation and came up with the possibility of a boycott as a strong form of democracy. Is democracy only about casting votes, electing representatives, and processions and congregations? To me, it is more than that. When people collectively exercise their power regarding any crisis in any country then it is a strong manifestation of democracy. Hence, the time-honoured adage: united we stand, divided we fall. To me, revolutions are authentic forms of democracy.

The wild force of revolutions is curtailed for the sake of creating a better system. Since we cannot live without a system we create or promise to create a better society. Permanent revolutions can be an option for people to exercise power. But fatigue gets the better of the fighters of revolutions. These days instead of big revolutions we have micro-level revolutions like boycotting items getting out of reach of most of the consumers.

Dhaka as the capital of the nation always attracts more attention from different actors of development. As a result, people come from various parts of the country in search of privileges. The journey is always from one metropolitan centre to another to merge with a cosmopolitan frenzy. When employees are exploited by their employers then the situation gets even worse. Roads are sometimes blocked by garment factory workers for their outstanding salaries. On many occasions, people are forced to work for peanuts.

People from all walks of life live in this city to propel the engine of this megalopolis. The fortune-seekers come here to make a hefty profit with any commodity. But they forget that although the market economy turns everything and anything into a commodity, perishable goods like onions and watermelons cannot be preserved for a long time. So, people are not talking about bringing the price of gold or diamonds down. They are simply focusing on enjoying the seasonal fruits to satiate their heart and mind. It is not that people will die without eating watermelons, but the fruit was cultivated with consumers in mind.

Boycotts are multidimensional. Many Muslim consumers decided to boycott Israeli commodities to show their strong allegiance to religious alliance in response to Israeli atrocities in Gaza. And we know that different consumer brands are struggling to survive due to the impact of the boycott. Boycott in this regard works as an indirect war. When someone cannot take up arms against military power, strategies like boycotts make a difference. It is also true that people lost their jobs because of the boycott but it remains the only way to fight against fascism, imperialism, and neo-colonialism. Consumer jihad has become a strong form of democracy to stop genocide in Gaza.

Quite recently the question of Maldives versus Lakshadweep also shows another form of a boycott. Boycotts are not being used in recent times only. We in this regard can talk about Gandhis Swadeshi movement, which was born to boycott products of the East India Company to oust the colonizers and buttress the local economy. Recently the movement to boycott Indian commodities is another dimension of promoting local economy and showing nationalistic fervour. The agency of boycott is undeniable to make the voice heard and the point of contention to be considered.

Democracy like any other idea is nomadic. Although we are told that it travelled from the West, the existence of ridicule and humiliation as a form of discipline and control in foraging communities like the Pygmies accentuates the fact that it was already in practice. Democracy- purported to be the solution for every crisis- is not a monolithic practice. Permanent democracy in the form of boycotts is going to be the new strategy to control the market in the future. In this situation, we must ensure that peasants are not victimized.

The middleman policy of the market system is a universal design as consumers cannot directly meet the food producers to buy products. One online platform is trying to minimize the number of middlemen to keep the price of vegetables within control and distribute them to supermarkets in the city. The initiative of sharing and caring can be a soothing solution for precarious life within market economies. If everyone cares for everyone in the community then the profit maximizers would cease to exist and boycotting as a strategy to discipline the market would be redundant.
The writer is an anthropologist working at Independent University, Bangladesh

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