Champaran,an old Bihar district,is back in the news–and not for a wrong reason.It had hit the headlines first a little less than a hundred year ago when the Father of the Nation had launched his first agitation agaist the British rule–and successfully.The district which has been divided into two,East Champaran and West Champaran districts,has become a talking point now for another reason, for producing a new variety of mango,called Jardalu,which to many, tastes better than all other varieties.
Another noteworthy feature:this variety of mango will be delivered in some of the Bihar districts with their mails.The Postal Department which took note of the development has reached an agreement with the Bihar government for delivering this variety at home.The pact at present is to home deliver this variety in just a few districts of the state but more areas may be added to the list in course of time.
This district in north Bihar,across the Ganga,had shot into fame and is a part of the history books because of Mahatma Gandhi who had chosen the district to launch his first Satyagraha after returning to the country from South Africa in 1915.Indigo cultivators were agitated in Champaran because they were forced by the then ruler(British) to grow indigo (neel), used in cotton industry for dyeing, in parts of their plots.Mahatma Gandhi reached the district by train in an ordinary class,led the agitation and forced them to amend the law.
It will be also known now for Jardalu mango which,to many,is a superior variety,superior both in taste and smell.The irony is that this variety is little known or largely unknown in other parts of the country.The well known mango varieties include Dasheri,Chausa,Langra and Malda.The new variety may become equally popular after it is home delivered with another Bihar speciality,Leechi, which is also a juicy fruit.
The home delivery of these two fruits to be made by the Postal Department at this time is a welcome move for two reasons.First,people will not have to go to markets to purchase them and expose themselves to Coronavirus.Second,farmers who have grown these fruits and are not able to market them adequately will find buyers sitting at home.There will be on- line booking and delivery made within a stipulated time.
Farmers in Bihar and other parts of the country have suffered a lot because of the lockdown.They could not go to markets and had to sell perishable goods at cheaper rates near their living places.Markets in green and orange zones were opened gradually but before the division and creation of zones there was a complete lockdown, forcing every one to stay at home.Some relaxations were given in the agriculture sector but not initially.The Bihar government decision, therefore, is timely and beneficial to farmers.Bihar’s Leechi grows before the Kharif season is highly in demand in most parts of the country.Production estimate is not immediately available but it must be large.Some damage was,of course,caused by untimely rain and hailstorm.
A question,however,has been raised in this regard.There are people who believe that this arrangement should have been made earlier.That might have attracted more buyers and popularised these fruits further. fruit growers might have earned more.The income might have doubled which would have helped them in many other ways.One can know about the quality only after a product is available to them.
In addition to Champaran, this variety of Mango is produced in small quantity a south Bihar district,Bhagalpur.Home delivery of this variety will be made initially in only three towns of Bihar including Patna,the state capital.From Patna it can be sent by air to other places.The air service has already become operational which will help find more buyers.More trains will be available next month and that will also help.
In Bihar and eastern part of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh this delicacy is already very popular.Mango eating competition is also held in some areas of these two states.Hundreds of people take part in these competition,creating mounds of mango peels.This Aam Khao,Purashkar Pao,competition is also held in some other parts of the country.Coronavirus which has affected all other activities may affect this competition too.The efforts,however,should be made whenever there is relaxation to popularise this variety.A brand is created after vigorous efforts.This variety may become a national brand if some good offices are used.
The government has to step in to see that middlemen do not exploit the situation and deny a good price to growers.The government has proposed to double farmers’ income which cannot happem without direct selling.Delay in payment for purchases by government agencies can also dampen their spirit.So,it will have to be active on many fronts.
Here I would also like to clarify that I am not in support of this mango variety because I am a Bihari.You will also become a fan if you taste it.Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar sends Jardalu mangoes in boxes to many VIPs including President,PM,Chief Justice of India,home minister,defence minister and agriculure minister every year.It is not reaching many common men and women.It will be more popular if it reaches all parts of the country.
Ask a mango eater and you will hear three or four names including Dasheri of Uttar Pradesh,Langra of Vaanasi and Alphonso of Maharashtra from him.Jardalu will not find a mention. Dasheri,to inform those who are unaware,was grown in a village with the same name.Langra is believed to have also originated in UP.This fibrous mango variety has small kernels.It is fleshy.Alphonso is also sweet.There are crores of people who love to eat these mango varieties.
People in Bihar and West Bengal prefer another mango variety,Malda.It will be injustice if this variety is left untouched.This variety is grown mainly in areas close to the banks of the Ganga between West Bengal and Bihar.Digha area near Patna and Sabour in Bhagalpur district are known for white Malda.It is popular because it is less fibrous and gives feel of eating ice cream.
A number of trees of this variety were planted by the first President Deshratna Rajendra Prasad at Sadaquat Ashram locality in Patna.These trees are still there bearing fruits in summer.He lived in a small house with thatched roof in a corner of the mango grove when he returned to Patna after relinquishing office of the President of the Republic.He lived in this house until his passing away in 1963.These trees and Dudhiya Mangoes produced by them are special.There is no doubt about it. Jardalu mango is,of course, different.But this variety holds its own charm.
(The writer is a Senior Editor,columnist and former MP)