Covid lockdown: Bihar to send jardalu mangoes for President, PM, CJI and other dignitaries
Bihar has decided to keep up the annual tradition of sending its special ‘jardalu’ mangoes of Bhagalpur as gifts to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and other dignitaries in New Delhi despite the ongoing second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.
These bright yellow mangoes with their unique taste, fragrance and just the right amount of fructose, unlike many others that are either very sweet or a bit sour, were plucked on June 4. They were awarded the GI (Geographical Indication) tag in 2018.
They were packed in cardboard boxes the next day and loaded on the Delhi-bound Vikramshila Express on Sunday. A whopping 10,000 kg is being procured from the orchards of mango growers.
Two officials from the agriculture department will accompany the jardalus and hand them over to the Bihar Bhavan in Delhi on Monday, which will oversee their distribution among the VVIPs. Each box will bear the message: ‘With love from chief minister Nitish Kumar, government of Bihar.’
“We are sending 2000 cartons, each containing 5kg of jardalu mangoes, to Delhi this time. The dispatch has been delayed by a few days due to Covid-19. We are taking all precautionary measures in the light of the pandemic. Those involved in plucking, packing and ferrying the fruits will wear masks and keep sanitising their hands,” Bhagalpur district magistrate Subrat Kumar Sen told The Telegraph.
A four-member committee led by the deputy development commissioner of Bhagalpur has already marked the farmers and their orchards from where the jardalus will be procured while keeping in view their quality and size.
“Our officials and a scientist from Bihar Agriculture University are ensuring uniform quality of the jardalu mangoes that will be sent. They have already checked the fruits for disease and insects. These jardalu mangoes are not found anywhere else except Bhagalpur,” Dilip Kumar Singh, in-charge, Bhagalpur district agriculture officer (DAO) said.
The move to send mangoes to Delhi has lifted the mood of jardalu growers in the region. They have been distressed due to the pandemic and lockdown that hampered the movement and sales of their produce.
“The jardalu mango crop has been quite good this year, but their market and the demand has been down due to Covid-19. We had been finding it difficult to transport and sell them in distant markets due to the ongoing lockdown. However, the Bihar government’s decision to send the fruits to VVIPs in Delhi will boost the confidence of people and perk up the demand,” said Srikant Pal, a jardalu orchard owner in Bhagalpur.
Expressing happiness on the Bihar government’s move to send jardalu mangoes to Delhi this year too, Bhagalpur Mango Federation president Ashok Choudhary pointed out that the growers or farmers have been facing several difficulties of late.
“The jardalu and other varieties of mangoes in the region have been hit by red-banded caterpillar, which starts boring into the mangoes when they are unripe and destroy the fruit from inside. The state government has not done anything till now to address this problem. Our mango farmers could be ruined due to this pest,” Choudhary told this newspaper.
Choudhary also added that fruit flies are also devastating the mango crop and special measures need to be taken to curb them.
The legend about jardalu mangoes popular in Bhagalpur is that the variety was developed during the Mughal era especially for the ruling class.
The locals say that the fruit’s unique fragrance and taste is partly due to the use of various herbs and perfumes used in watering the plants when they were first planted during that period, and partly due to the soil, climate and water quality of the area.
However, some documents indicate that Maharaja Rahmat Ali Khan Bahadur of Haveli Kharagpur (now in Munger district neighbouring Bhagalpur) planted the first jardalu sapling around 1810-20.
The locals assert that the sapling grew into a tree and still stands tall after two centuries at Tagepur village under Jagdishpur block. It acted as the mother tree for other jardalu plants.