Poha off menu at Simhastha stations

The pilgrims have started arriving but an old favourite has been stopped in its progress.

By Rasheed Kidwai in Bhopal
  • Published 13.04.16

Bhopal, April 12: The pilgrims have started arriving but an old favourite has been stopped in its progress.

Poha, an easily digestible breakfast staple, has been banned from platforms in all Western Railway divisions. There's no official place for it at stations where hundreds have been arriving every day for Simhastha 2016.

Prepared from flattened rice and highly recommended by nutritionists, poha is popular across central and western India and has united the nation just as other regular breakfast options, such as upma, dosa, paratha and puri- sabzi.

But Western Railway authorities apparently "forgot" to add poha in their official list of edible items permitted to be sold on platforms. So when general manager G.C. Aggarwal came to inspect and review preparations for the Simhastha, he objected to the sale of poha at the railway station in Ujjain, the Madhya Pradesh pilgrim centre that hosts this year's Kumbh mela.

This means that while the Kumbh pilgrims search for salvation, the poha - available for anything between Rs 5 and Rs 10 a plate - has been blocked in its humble pilgrimage through the human system, although nutritionists say it is 98 per cent digestible.

The Simhastha begins on April 22 and over five crore pilgrims are expected to gather for a dip in the holy Kshipra river. It is called Simhastha because of a rare configuration of planets that occurs once in 12 years when the Sun enters the zodiac sign Aries and Jupiter is in Leo (Simha rashi).

Thousands of pilgrims have already arrived in Ujjain but those who were looking forward to have poha in Ujjain, Indore and the 13 other railway stations that fall under Ratlam division were in for a disappointment following the ban order.

Poha lovers have hit back. A group on Facebook, named The Indori Page, posted a picture that said " Pohe hum sharminda hai, tere dushman zinda hai ( poha, we are sorry, your enemies are still alive)".

Another post read " tum kitne pohe ban karoge, har ghar se pohe niklenge" (how much poha will you ban, it will emerge from every home).

Western railway authorities are now trying to play down the lapse after railway vendors wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Jayant Joshi, public relations officer, Ratlam division, claimed it was a "printing mistake". "As of now, it ( poha) is not in the list so its sale is not permitted. We are writing to the competent authority to include in the list.... Its sale will resume again at all railway stations," Joshi said.

Pankaj Chaturvedi, a member of the district railway users consultative committee, said he was "outraged".

" Poha is not merely a breakfast option. It is an integral part of our culture and heritage. I would request Suresh Prabhuji to personally get a probe done to know why poha was kept out in the first place? Is it aimed at benefiting some multinational or food chain? It cannot be a printing error," Chaturvedi said.