| Sweet or sour'
Patna, Sept. 12: This may put chief minister Nitish Kumar in a foul mood, especially when he goes on his Delhi “mango mission” next summer.
Hundreds of farmers in Bhagalpur, Banka, Munger and Navgachia have been unknowingly planting “duplicate” saplings of high-quality Malda, Langra and Jardalu in their orchards.
Bhagalpur Bagvani Mission, which procured such saplings from private contractors, recently received the duplicate saplings. The mission employees went on to sell the saplings to farmers at subsidised rates before making any quality check.
The matter, however, came to light when the Bihar Nursery Association found that the saplings (of Langra, Jardalu and Malda) were “much shorter” than their usual height. The association members promptly complained about the matter to Bhagalpur Bagvani Mission director Sant Kumar Jaipuriyar, who then asked experts to verify.
The mission comes under the horticulture department and is being run in other districts simultaneously. Usually, private contractors collect mango saplings to sell it to the district Bagvani Mission.
Jaipuriyar said: “We found merit in the nursery association complaint after investigations. As we get saplings in big volume, the two contractors may have succeeded in slipping in the duplicate saplings.”
He added after learning the truth, the mission has promptly stopped distributing the saplings. “We are returning the dubious saplings to its suppliers — RK Enterprises and Eastern Plantations.” But, the mission cannot do anything about the “fake” saplings that have been already planted.
While Bhagalpur public relations officer Dilip Singh could not be contacted, an agriculture ministry official said the district administration, in consultation with horticulture experts, had been asked to monitor the quality of saplings.
He said these mangoes and litchis were directly associated with the Bihar heritage. “Mangoes are not just tasty fruits, but they serve a purpose in the federal structure,” he said.
He was referring to the Nitish tradition wherein every summer, the Bihar government sends packets of Malda and Jardalu mangoes and litchis to the President and the Prime Minister along with other central ministers to strike “sweet” relations with the Centre.
Railway minister and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad was so enthused at the CM’s gift of mangoes and litchis this year that he wished to “reciprocate” Nitish’s gift with pumpkins and jack-fruits as “return gifts”.