Mamata Banerjee may have fought a pitched battle with Pranab Mukherjee for a bailout package for West Bengal, but the adamant finance minister had refused to entertain her. Now Mamata has pushed for another demand. She wants Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma to take concrete steps to bring Hilsa fish from countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar.
West Bengal may be one of the best fish producing states in India, but there is a shortage of around 2 lakh ton, according to estimates of state fisheries department. The onset of rainy season has awakened the Bengalis’ insatiable desire for this delicious fish but since one kg of Hilsa is being sold at Rs 600 and above, the people are feeling the pinch.
This has made Mamata Banerjee worried and so even in this gloomy political environment, she has requested the Centre to convince Bangladesh and Myanmar to allow more Hilsa to be brought to Kolkata.
Fisheries minister Abu Hena is trying to meet Anand Sharma in Delhi to request the Centre to take up the matter with the two neighbouring countries. “Yes, the chief minister wants Bengalis to eat Hilsa fish on a regular basis. So I want to convey her wish to the central ministers,” Hena said.
Mamata has already written to Sharma about this. But in the political skirmish over Presidential election, Sharma reportedly did not take any initiative. So Hena is now desperate to meet the commerce minister to sort out the issue.
India has a trade agreement with Myanmar after Prime Minister’s Manmohan Singh’s recent visit. Though Bangladesh produces the largest quantity of high-quality Hilsa, the country has, in recent years, controlled its export as domestic demand has increased. The ones, which come from Bangladesh, are sold in the Kolkata market at Rs 700 per kg or more.
Inability to take forward the development in the state has pained Mamata so much that she wants Bengalis to have at least Hilsa, known as ilish, at an affordable price.
“Didi knows the pulse of Bengalis. If fish-loving middle class Bengalis could have Hilsa at affordable price, they would be happy. And if they know didi has taken so much effort to bring cheers to their lives, they would definitely appreciate it,” said a Trinamool Congress leader.
Incidentally, Hilsa is also favourite fish of Pranab Mukherjee. The Presidential candidate loves to eat fishes like Hilsa and Pabda. Sources said Mamata did not make such demands to Pranab, which could have made her task easier. Pranab would have spoken to foreign minister or even commerce minister to simplify the procedure.
The fate of Bengalis hangs in balance as they do not know whether Sharma would respond to Mamata’s repeated pleas. Perhaps one would have to wait till the UPA meeting when Mamata can sort out the issue with the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi.