Elections are for the living. In predominantly Christian Mizoram, they are for the dead as well. Coffins aren’t a priority for the Mizo Congress or its opponents but bamboo development is a major component of the New Land Use Policy, the Congress’ flagship programme in Mizoram. Its poll manifesto also promises a thrust on optimisation of the state’s rich bamboo resource through value-additions such as bamboo mats and bamboo ply.
According to the state’s Bamboo Development Agency, the annual bamboo yield is 3,237,689 metric tonnes.
The Young Mizo Association (YMA), a traditional NGO that coordinates social functions, sources and provides the bamboo coffins. “Mass production can lower the cost of a bamboo coffin to less than Rs1,000. Political parties would do well to focus on the bamboo coffin industry,” YMA office-bearer Vanlalruata said.
The popular push for bamboo productivity is understandable. In the sixties, the flowering of unutilised bamboos — a rare phenomenon —had yielded a fruit that rats fed on to multiply and cause famine.
The crisis had given birth to Mizo National Front (MNF) militancy in 1966. The MNF, which evolved into a political party in 1986, introduced Baffacos (Bamboo Flowering Famine and Combat Scheme) when famine struck again during its 1998-2008 rule.
“We have major plans on bamboo,” party president and former chief minister Zoramthanga said.