KOLKATA: Dhaka just removed a thorn from the hilsa. Bengalis across the border may now happily mix their mustard sauce with ‘legally’ procured Padma hilsa. The ban on exports on the Bangladesh delicacy has just been lifted to ease the way for economy. Diplomacy is the add-on.
Nothing identifies a true -blue Bengali more than his love for fish, with an old Bengali proverb declaring that “fish and rice make a Bengali.” And more than any fish, the love for the thorny hilsa, considered the ‘king of fishes’, cements ties between 30 crore Bengalis of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Tripura and the Barak Valley of southern Assam.
Which is why when Bangladesh, which produces nearly 75 per cent of the world’s hilsa, banned its export on August 1, 2012 to conserve it, it led to major murmurs of discontent among Bengalis in India and other parts of the world.
But on Monday, Bangladesh’s new fisheries and livestock minister, Narayon Chandra Chanda, announced that the ban would be lifted, causing much exultation among the fish importers and the West Bengal government.
“The ban appeared futile. So, we will export hilsa through official channels to stop its smuggling. Our hilsa production has increased and there is a demand in the international market. Therefore, we want to move towards exports,” Chanda said.
Reacting to his statement, his West Bengal counterpart Chandranath Sinha told The New Indian Express, “Bangladesh is yet to officially lift the ban on hilsa export. Whenever it materialises, we expect a dip in prices of hilsa and also reduction in catching of baby hilsa fishes off the West Bengal coast, which will lead to their conservation.”
West Bengal Fish Importer’s Association President Atanu Das said that the fishermen would no longer have to venture into deep seas to catch baby hilsa due to lifting of the ban.
“Baby hilsa live in deep seas and as they grow up, they move towards the mouth of the rivers. Because of the ban on hilsa export by Bangladesh, fishermen in West Bengal emptied the hilsa in the rivers of the state to cater to the local demand,” he said.
“The fishermen then had to venture into deep seas for the baby hilsa, which had seriously threatened the existence of the species. Bangladesh officially lifting the ban would ensure better conservation of the fish in West Bengal,” Das said.
Sulking over hilsa
Bangladesh, which produces nearly 75 per cent of the world’s hilsa, banned its export on August 2012 to conserve it. It led to major murmurs of discontent among Bengalis in India and other parts of the world