A Flood of Hilsa
This is flood of a different kind that Guwahati is not familiar with. The scrumptious Hilsa (Ilish) fish is in abundant supply in almost all the fish markets in the city.
A daily fish buyer said, “I am confused about the actual price of the Hilsa and also the quality as the sellers quote different prices in different markets. Even the origin of the fish is confusing as some claimed they were selling Podda Ilish and some said they were from Brahmaputra.” The Podda (or Padma) river in Bangladesh is known for producing the best quality Hilsa and hence the most expensive. The variety found in the Brahmaputra is usually sold at a cheaper price.
Currently, in Paltan Bazar, a Hilsa weighing 1to 2 kilos is sold for Rs 500 to Rs 800 per kilogram whereas it is available for Rs 400 to Rs 500 in Lal Ganesh market.
Clearing the doubts of the consumers, a wholesale fish dealer Bhaskar Das of Ujan Bazar said, “Hilsa from Bangladesh is not coming to Guwahati since October, and all the Hilsa in the markets are from river Brahmaputra. The fish sellers in the retail city markets charge customers according to their own wish calculating their travelling costs, room rent etc and there is no regulation on the fish price in such markets. ”
He informed that for the next couple of weeks, the markets will only receive Hilsa from the Brahmaputra and there is a possibility of the fish arriving from Bangladesh only after the end of the ban period in the neighbouring country.
Fisheries dept to soon regulate fish prices
The department of fisheries has decided to regulate the prices of fish in Assam soon.
Director of the department, SK Das, told G Plus, “We are planning to submit a proposal to the state government soon to regulate the price of fish across Assam.”
Das said that the department of fisheries was concentrating on production and Assam Apex Co-Operative Marketing and Processing Federation Limited, also known as FISHFED; which was under registrar of cooperative societies used to look after the marketing of fish.
He explained that FISHFED has the powers to regulate the price after it was brought under the department of fisheries following a recent decision of the cabinet. The director added that it is not only Hilsa but people are confused about the cost of other varieties too, as fish sellers sell fish according to their own will. The director also said that customers will be able to complain if they are overcharged.
Craze for Hilsa: no effort by govt for local production
The high demand for the Hilsa notwithstanding, the Assam government has not yet initiated any steps to increase the production of the fish in the state.
A source in the department of fisheries told G Plus, “Bangladesh is trying to produce Hilsa in ponds and fisheries, but unfortunately we have not started any such study till now.” The source blamed the lack of an adequate infrastructure and research as the stumbling blocks in the production of Hilsa in Assam.
“There are also cases where fishermen have been making a good catch of the fish in the Brahmaputra near Tilapara, south of Chandardinga Hill and Chapar in Dhubri. This is the breeding season for the Hilsas and catching it is banned in neighbouring Bangladesh during this season,” an official informed.
The department of fisheries had asked the deputy commissioners of three districts - Dhubri, Bongaigaon and Goalpara - to ban fishing of Hilsa between October - December and April - June due to the breeding season. But fishing is rampant since there is no law to bar any fisherman from catching the fish.
Hilsa is mainly found in estuaries of the Bay of Bengal where the Brahmaputra meets the sea. During the breeding season, the fish travels upstream of the river for laying eggs as sea water is not suitable for the purpose. The districts that have been identified by the department have spots where the Hilsa lay eggs every year.