‘Go Push Go!’ and ‘We want Fair Trade,’ they cheered even as nature seemed to oblige when the rain let up for a brief period on Friday morning.
Around 100 people from Puducherry, Auroville, NGOs, schools and colleges gathered on Beach Road to show their support as activist Pushpanath Krishnamurthy embarked on a 450-km walk from Puducherry to Udhagamandalam, braving the rain and more, to create awareness on Fair Trade and climate justice. The walk has been timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21 in Paris. The event is also kick-starting an initiative to make Puducherry and Auroville the world’s first ‘Fair Trade Twin Towns’ which is supported by Puducherry-based Mandala Apparels, Fairtrade India and NGO PondyCAN.
The flag-off was attended by Environment Minister T. Thiagarajan, Tourism Minister P. Rajavelu and MLA K. Lakshminarayanan. French Consul General Philippe Janvier-Kamiyama also lent his support.
Mr. Krishnamurthy is being joined in his walk by Puducherry entrepreneur Natesa Iyer. He will also be accompanied by a van with publicity signage about his walk, said Ramya Rajanna, a volunteer from Mr. Krishnamurthy’s team who is coordinating the logistics of the walk. “We wanted to make sure that Pushpanath had a place to rest in case it gets dark or the weather gets bad somewhere,” she said. Mr. Krishnamurthy will carry with him success stories about Fair Trade in Puducherry and Auroville to farmers, schools and colleges in more than 20 places on the way, as he walks 20 to 25 km a day. After explaining about his walk, Mr. Krishnamurthy said that Fair Trade was the way forward to ensure a better world. “My name is Push and I need your support,” he said, adding that people in other countries are also undertaking walks in support. He will be hosted by different people and organisations voluntarily.
P. Joseph Victor Raj from NGO HOPE which is also supporting the initiative of ‘Fair Trade Twin Towns’, said, “We hope this would result in Puducherry industries respecting the environment, not employing child labour, paying fair wages to the employees and ensuring good working conditions including the enforcement of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.”
Among Mr. Krishnamurthy's supporters were children of the Satya Special School, Puducherry, who walked with him for a short distance and children from the Udavi School in Auroville who are also participating in a walk.
“Fair Trade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. It allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and invest in their future, their environment and their communities,” according to Fairtrade India.
Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade based on a partnership between producers and traders, businesses and consumers.
What is a Fair Trade Town?
“Any community that makes a collective commitment to Fair Trade. Each Fair Trade Town campaign is unique but all Fair Trade Towns bring people together and raise awareness and understanding of trade issues,” according to the website of Fair Trade Towns.
“FAIRTRADE Mark appears on products that meet Fairtrade standards and come from Fairtrade producer organisations.”