Bihar government relaxes fish ban in Patna, allows trade of live fish
The health department Thursday evening lifted the ban on trade of live fish within municipal areas of Patna following massive protests.
The fortnight long ban on sale, transport and storage of all varieties of dead fish would, however, continue.
The food safety wing of the health department had imposed a ban on trade and transport of all varieties of fish in Patna for 15 days on Monday. The ban followed laboratory reports indicating presence of high content of cancer-inducing formalin and heavy metals, like lead and cadmium, in fish samples collected last October from 10 different locations within the municipal area of Patna.
Principal secretary (health) Sanjay Kumar, who is also the commissioner of food safety, Thursday said, “The ban has been lifted for live fishes.” He did not elaborate.
The Bihar Rajya Machhli Vyavsayi Sangh, a state body of fish businessmen, however, was not satisfied with the government’s decision. Anuj Kumar, secretary of the association, called for lifting of ban on trade of dead fish as well. “We always suspected that a small yet powerful lobby of fish breeders, led by a state minister, was behind the ban. The government decision to lift the ban selectively has strengthened our belief,” he said.
“The fish breeders in Bihar will reap a rich harvest, pocketing four-five times their normal profit as they will jack up prices of live fish,” he said.
Kumar said that against Patna’s average daily sale of 90-100 tonnes of fish, live fish accounted for only 5-6 tonnes, thus leaving a huge gap between demand and supply.
The association would take out a protest march from Bazar Samiti to Gardanibagh via Kankerbagh on Friday.
“Those dealing in fish from across the state are converging here tomorrow to participate in the protest march. We expect around 50,000 to 1 lakh people to join our protest tomorrow,” Kumar said.
Criticising the government’s decision, the Cooperative Fisheries Federation had also demanded from the government an unemployment allowance of at least Rs 500 per fisherman per day during the fish ban period. The federation said that many fishermen suffered heavy losses because consignment of fish was in transit when the government announced a ban on them all of a sudden on January 14. The federation claimed that fish sellers had to dispose them off at throw away prices because of the ban.
Anyone violating the ban is liable to imprisonment of up to 7 years and fine of Rs 10 lakh, under Section 59 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which deals with punishment for unsafe food.