And you thought the average Bengali had only machher jhol on his mind' He also takes delight in the fighters and angelfish, swordtails and guppies in his aquarium back home.
To cater to the needs of these fish-lovers and to rope in many others, plans are afoot for an ornamental fish market in the city. And the venture is not a private one. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government is neck-deep in it. Galiff Street, in north Calcutta, may well have the honour of housing this fish market, along with aquarium shops.
State fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda on Monday unveiled plans for the ornamental fish market. “I will ask mayor Subrata Mukherjee to hand us the Galiff Street market. It is a ready structure, lying unused for quite some time. We can house a complete plaza for ornamental fish in it. Presently, a number of traders sell ornamental fish on the streets in the area. There lies an immense possibility of developing the trade in the state,” he said.
However, if the mayor begs to differ, Nanda plans to shift the market to the city’s southern fringes, in Bishnupur.
According to the minister, the state caters to 90 per cent of the demand for ornamental fish in the domestic and international market. “We export ornamental fish worth Rs 3.5 crore annually, and Rs 20-crore-worth in the domestic market,” he said.
India produces only a minuscule part of the demand for ornamental fish in the international market. “If we can tap this demand, it is certainly possible to increase production,” he added.
The government has already launched a programme in two adjacent districts of Calcutta — Howrah and South 24-Parganas — by involving women to expand production of ornamental fish. Some women involved in the trade and some officers have already been trained to this end. “The chief minister will soon inaugurate a project on ornamental fish near Raichak,” he added.
However, it is also crucial to popularise the habit of keeping fish in every home, feels Nanda. “Without developing this habit, we won’t succeed in expanding the market. The idea is to involve homemakers and popularise the idea of aquariums as an essential part of the household,” he said.
The minister on Monday also mentioned that the state would soon begin work on a fishing harbour at Kakdwip. There will also be three more fishing harbours in the state, which will help generate employment. A fish-processing-cum-export zone at Chakberia, on the city’s southern fringes, will also come up soon. Nanda claimed it would be the first of its kind in Asia.