In Mizoram, eating rats is believed to be the best way to counter famine induced by bamboo flowering, the dreaded phenomenon that visits every 50 years. However, barbecuing, steaming, smoking or frying rats is fraught with danger — the rodents are killed with pesticides to prevent them from eating the fruits that bamboo flowers yield. So, the state government has come up with a safer idea—turmeric farming.
The hill state underwent one such severe famine in the 1960s that led to the birth of the militant group Mizo National Front (MNF). Now a political party, the MNF rules Mizoram under the threat of another famine, locally known as mautam.
The bamboos in Mizoram are flowering again. The bamboo fruit, for which rats have a penchant, encourages the rodents to breed at a rapid rate. The recent flowering of bamboos has attracted at least 12 species of rats in droves. Earlier, the government had issued a notification to poison the ‘enemies’, but the propensity of people to eat them has led to complications.
Worried by the rat-eating fad, the government has been hunting for alternatives. Last week, it came up with one. “We have asked farmers to go in for large-scale cultivation of turmeric, which rodents abhor. Besides, turmeric has a global market as a herbal product,” said state agriculture minister H. Rammawi.
The agriculture department has allocated 71 centres under eight horticulture divisions to collect turmeric seeds from farmers and distribute them free of cost. “The collection of seeds will be undertaken from February 26 to March 3, while the distribution will be completed by March 10,” Rammawi said.
Over 21,000 farming families in 400 villages are likely to benefit from the scheme.