Nov 10, 2016

Their economy still in 1980s, life in Agra's Radhasoami sect remains unaffected by currency ban

Aditya Dev
November 10, 2016

People at Radhasoami Satsang Sabha in Dayabagh area.
AGRA: The one place which has remained unaffected by demonetization of Rs 500/100 currency is Radhasoami Satsang Sabha in Dayabagh area the city, which has its own system of financial transactions.
Spread over 300 acres, the headquarters of Radhasoami Satsang takes visitors to the slo-mo 1980s instantly where around 800 families living get articles of daily use at unbelievable prices. Medical facilities can be had for Rs 2, milk at Rs 14 per litre, and 50 paise coins are still used inside the premises - and it can buy you many things.

In fact, the Sabha has stopped transactions involving Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes a long time back, given the low prices of goods available at its fair prices shops. Another reason was chances of receiving counterfeit currencies due to huge rush at these centers.
GP Satsangi, secretary of the Raddhasoami Satsang Sabha, said, "We have no concept of profit earning. We do not even encourage huge donations by devotees. One devotee is allowed to donate between Rs 10 and Rs 1000 just once in a year. A large number of goods are manufactured in-house and are sold after just levying 2-3% on their production costs."
Moreover, medicines and vegetables are sold at prices at which they have been bought from the wholesale markets. In other words, they are 40-50% cheaper than the outside market prices, added Soamidayal Singh, chief audit officer.
"For instance a crepe bandage, which is available for Rs 80 outside, is sold for just Rs 8 here, because its wholesale price is just the same," Singh informed.
The over 100-year-old township in fact is a self-sustained entity having its own educational and health institutions besides huge tracts of farming lands. The small-scale units operating inside the campus produce organic soaps, edible products and shoes which are much in demand for their quality and durability.
Community living forms the crux of life here with residents pitching in on a voluntary basis to till the farms and work in the dairy. They are paid monthly salaries ranging from Rs 600 to Rs 2,200 -- in fact, the average monthly income of 35% of the population is just Rs 1000.
This disciplined living extends to all aspects of life. For instance, alcohol is banned here and residents do not have TV sets at home. This keeps their electricity consumption down to below 300 units per month. Most residents use bicycles for commuting which eliminates the need for expensive fuel. Also, nobody owns any property; living quarters are available on rents starting from Rs 35 per month for a one-room set to Rs 300 for a bigger house. Similarly, a meal from the community kitchen - comprising chapatis, rice, dal and sabji -- -- costs Rs 6.
"The focus is on spiritual emancipation with dedication towards doing some good deeds for the society, but without giving up worldly life altogether. We give utmost importance to dignity of labour. All residents contribute by devoting a few hours to working inside the community," added Satsangi.
The community's residents say that they make optimum use of technology to ensure productivity and efficiency. Use of renewable energy is another important facet of life here with thrust on green fuel.
Surprisingly, many resident who have lived all their life here say that the community life is such that they able to save 10-15% of their salaries per month.
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