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Flower for tobacco farewell

Flowers will soon replace khaini (chewing tobacco).

The idea may sound utopian, at least to some MLAs at the Assembly on Wednesday, but the government is firm to train tobacco farmers to grow flowers.

“We have planned to turn around the farmers’ fate through agriculture roadmap. The government has decided to train tobacco farmers in the skill of cultivating genda (Tagetes), rajnigandha (Polianthes tuberosa), chameli (Jasminum grandiflorum) and other aromatic flowers so that they can eventually replace the tobacco cultivation by floriculture,” agriculture minister Narendra Singh said while speaking on a non-government resolution moved by the RJD member, Durga Prasad Singh.

Tobacco is a cash crop grown primarily in north Bihar’s Samastipur, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Sheohar districts. It serves as the raw material to cigarette and bidi production. Besides, the people habituated to nicotine consume it as khaini (dried tobacco plant mixed with lime).

Several members, including some of the treasury bench, found the idea “utopian” and also “unusually idealistic”.

“We all know that milk is better than liquor. But can milk replace liquor?” asked a JD(U) member, adding, “The idea is downright utopian and also impractical”.

The issue came up when the RJD MLA demanded — during the last session at the Assembly on Wednesday — that the government must ask Rajendra Agriculture University (RAU), Pusa, to develop an orange-like fruit by crossing lemon with gagal (a breed of orange).

Narendra replied: “The government has already contacted the university which has stated that it was not possible to develop a santara (orange)-like fruit and grow it in the areas given the climatic condition and also non-existence of research and test on the suggested line.”

At the same time, he announced that the government had decided to train the tobacco farmers to grow aromatic flowers.

As the House was adjourned later, many members came out looking for khaini to satisfy their demand of nicotine. “Ek gilas panni do aur jaldi khaini thoko (Give me a glass of water and prepare khaini soon),” the BJP MLA from Raghunathpur (Siwan), Vikram Kunwar, told a peon at the Assembly press room. Kunwar, in his usual rustic style, said: “The government wants us enjoy the smell of flowers instead of khaini. Tell me, can flowers replace khaini?”


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