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Goonj: A ready to wear label for the poor[continued]

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Cloth as currency:

Goonj costs Rs.18,00,000 a year to run. Though it may seem high, it is about what a nominally affluent home spends on itself in an year. Around Rs.4,00,000 comes from spontaneous sources. The rest has to be worked for. He is trying to charge a flat Rs.1 per garment. That will bring in an additional Rs.6,00,000 a year. He wants to scale the operations to 3 million pieces, charge Rs.1 per piece and float Goonj off its subsidised moorings.

In many instances, the monetisation of clothes doesn't benefit Goonj but creates public good. In a remarkable innovation, Goonj demands voluntary labour in return for good clothes. It is a hearteningly successful experiment. In Moregaon, Assam, 120 villagers laboured a full day to repair an approach road and received clothes in payment. In Vidharbha, Maharashtra villagers built fences around their school and temple. In Kuthambakkam, Tamil Nadu, a water body was cleared of weeds. Again in Tamil Nadu, quarry workers in Kundrathur have agreed to clear drains in their settlement in return for clothes. In Sunderbans, Bengal clothes were given in return for total cleaning and sprucing of village environs. 50 villages in Maharashtra have queued up for the clothes for work programme.

Meenakshi, the helmsman:

The contentment shows on Anshu's face. He has a paid Ashoka Fellowship. That will expire in 2007. Meenakshi has just quit her job and works full time for Goonj. They can sense they have reached the tipping point. They may soon succeed in reaching their 3 million target.

Goonj's sturdy relationship with rural NGOs has spawned other innovations. Among them, the new 'School to School' programme. In this, city children send their good and used water bottles, school bags and other materials of use to school going children in rural India. Goonj is also passionate about reuse of discarded photocopy pages. These invariably have a blank side which Goonj converts into usable stationery.

All this should be enough for any man to puff up with self-congratulations. Anshu has no such luxuries to indulge in. Meenakshi steers him clear of that course. She won't let anyone in Goonj forget, that in charity work, the profile of the initiator has to be self-effacing. "She is very good at ensuring that," says Anshu with a huge smile.


J-93 Sarita Vihar
New Delhi- 110076
Phones:[011]26972351; 0-98681-46978 [Mobile : Anshu]
email: ,
Goonj has government authorisation to accept donations from overseas. Indian donors can claim tax break under Section 80G

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