If you are a fish lover and heading towards Kharagpur, taking the National Highway-60, in the next few days, do not forget to stop a kilometer after you cross the Balasore town. For you are sure to find, local villagers standing on the highway and selling fish.
The entire one-km stretch between Balasore to Kashimpur, has turned into a makeshift fish market. And if you are lucky, you can get fresh charapona (a smaller version of rohu) for Rs 100-120 a kg that costs around Rs 200 in Kolkata and around Rs 220 in the Balasore fish market.
Thanks to the Phailin and the subsequent floods, most farmers in the neighbourhood villages of Balasore have turned into fishermen and fishmongers. It has turned out to be a boon for the farmers -- hundreds of them -- as this is the only income they may have for quite some time before the water recedes and they can cultivate their fields again.
"What to do? My farmland got flooded and we have lost our all means of livelihood. A large number of fish entered into our fields with floodwaters, so fishing is the best option. If we sell fish, we can make some money even during this distressed period," said Sitaram Hansda, a native of Kashimpur village barely around 120 kms from the Bengal town of Kharagpur.
Because of the flood, the ponds in the neighbourhood villages got flooded and the overflowing pond water has submerged the entire adjacent paddy fields. According to locals, fishes like rohu, charapona and chanda(fish resembles promfet but found in ponds) are readily available in these ponds.
"Although we are farmers, we have small fishing nets in our houses. And we used to practice fishing for our own household consumption. When we left home, we carried only commodities like rice, dal, and nets. We were sure that our family could feed on rice and fishes for the next few days. But net turned out to be a source of income for us," said Chaitanya Hansda, with a grim smile who has already earned Rs.400 by 11am on Wednesday.
Chaitanya is happy, so is Abhijit Pradhan, a small time businessman from Kharagpur. Pradhan went to Chandrakona to meet his relatives and on his way back, he found the makeshift fish market, "I have procured four pieces of charapona. It seems the four together would weigh around 1 kg and 250 grams. After much bargaining I had to shell out only Rs 150," Pradhan looked very happy.
For people of Kolkata, the makeshift market might remind them of the Cauliflower vendors near Dhapa on Eastern Metropolitan Bypass where passersby notice the Cauliflower sellers standing only with the vegetables at certain intervals. Like the cauliflower sellers, these fishmongers in Balasore do not have a weighing machine, nor do they have a fixed price.
"This business seems profitable to some extent and we would continue till we can go back to our houses," said Baburam Hansda, another local villager.
Phailin not only destroyed sources of income but also paved the way of a substitute livelihood.