City wants CM to get hilsa diplomacy right

  • Subhendu Maiti, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Feb 20, 2015 13:23 IST

If Bengal chief minister cosies up with Dhaka can hilsa be far behind? Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been flooded with requests from numerous fish importers’, traders’ and market committees across the state to persuade Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to lift the ban on hilsa exports to India that Dhaka imposed in July 2012.

The hope is that Bengalis can taste the coveted fish before Puja. They have submitted letters to the chief minister at Nabanna a week back.

“We have requested our chief minister to persuade Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to lift the ban on hilsa exports to India. We are expecting a positive response,” said Anwar Maqsood, secretary of the Fish Importers’ Association.

Several other associations and market committees in Howrah, Sealdah and Siliguri have also drawn the chief minister’s attention on the issue.

“I have also requested our chief minister to discuss the hilsa issue with Sheikh Hasina. Let’s hope for something positive for the fish that is prized for its taste and flavour,” said Chandranath Singha, state fisheries minister.

Now, traders’ are importing the hilsa from Myanmar, which is a poor comparison with its Bangladeshi cousin.

Earlier, Bangladesh commerce ministry had decided that it had no immediate plans to lift the ban on hilsa export. The Hasina government wanted to ensure smooth supply to local markets in order to check its prices. “Following Bangladeshi restrictions on hilsa exports, prices have shot up astronomically. A kg of hilsa imported from Myanmar costs around Rs. 1,200 in the city,” Anwar said.

“Bangladesh is sticking to their decision because of the Teesta river issue. We export hundreds of items to Bangladesh. But they are indifferent to our demand. We hope that the Centre will respond to our letter and take it up with Dhaka,” a member of the association said.

During monsoon, the state used to get around 15 metric tonnes of hilsa from Bangaladesh daily before the ban. During festivals like Durga Puja or jamai sasthi, the highest consignment of around 50 to 60 metric tonnes of hilsa used to reach Petrapol on the India-Bangladesh border in North 24-Parganas.

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