By Bhupen Goswami
It’s a one-stop-shopping-experience-zone, an answer to growing health concerns of a city, a haven for farmers and a platform for trade of local produce. The Bipanan Khetra, located at the Six Mile – Panjabari area of Guwahati city, is Assam’s, and region’s largest market place, an outcome of PPP endeavour of the Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board (ASAMB) and Anjaybee Green to promote and market organic food among the people of the region.
Customers visiting the massive Bipanan Khetra market complex let themselves loose into the kaleidoscopic display of organic food items, leap with pleasure of having discovered a treasure of much sought after pure food, a respite from chemical stuffed ones flooding the markets, leading to overindulgence of procurements. Once into the complex it is impossible to escape without making rounds of stalls and diverse stores, restaurants, local garment stalls, auditoria and of course the terrace party facility and more.
The food items come clean and cheaper than traditional markets. Variety is what makes the Khetra so special. Local organic produce and exports are its forte. This market was set up with the prime objective of helping farmers of Assam and the North East, to sell their products on a common platform.
It is also a place to hang out with friends and family for a light meal or freshly cooked “pithas”, an Assamese snack, made usually during the festival times. Assamese traditional Pitha and Laru are available round the year.
Here, one can get apples and lettuce from Arunachal Pradesh, locally grown “Saak” (green leafy vegetables), various sorts of imported & exotic fruits & vegetables at a very cheaper price, local and imported fishes, mutton, chicken, duck, pigeon, mustard oil (produced at the Khetra by the expeller machine from mustard seeds bought from the farmers of the state), fresh wheat flour (grounded at Khetra facility), a variety of local rice, pulses and of course the various items of the Assamese traditional breakfast and tea items and more.
The man behind the massive project, Nayanjyoti Bhattacharyya, CEO at Anjaybee Group of Farms explains the rationale behind the emergence of this auction and trade centre of organic food items.
It was to serve as the link between the farmers or manufacturers and the end consumers. At a time when farmers needed an outlet to sell their produce and were exploited by the middlemen, the Khetra provided the much needed respite.
Secondly and also importantly, the Khetra provided scope of employment opportunities to the youth of Assam and northeast. The centre also provided reasonable prices to customers and eliminated the middleman.
“Even most of the branded products in our departmental store are sold below the MRP. From the day one, we have been trying to give the shape of this market as Producers’ own market to give more benefit to the farmers. Accordingly, we have created a Marketing Consortium by providing space within our market to the following young educated local groups who are directly involved in cultivation of vegetable and other allied agricultural products, creating a pool of beneficiary farmers & producers under their patronage,” says Mr Bhattacharyya.
What the Khetra offers
The ground floor of the Bipanan Khetra is decked with colourful stalls of mouth watering and locally produced and exported food items, food courts offering local pithas notable being the Bokhakhator Puri along with live bakery items, Chinese and Indian food items.
The first floor is marked by departmental stores of cosmetics, toiletries, packed food, daily grocery items, kitchen accessories, gift items, decorative items etc. all sold below MRP.
In the second floor are clothing store like San Martin Shoppe and various ethnic dress counters. The attraction however is the scintillating experience of hosting and participating in the banquet hall and rooftop garden O2. Evening and night shows are also hosted here and they say the facilities are available for rent at a price much cheaper than others in Guwahati. It is ideal family dining, live music shows, parties and social functions.
The Khetra has pressed into service highly qualified professionals to manage, market, train and initiate the desired activities. The partners and initiatives of the Khetra are:
Organic Majuli: An enterprise of two engineers and two MBAs & MCAs Manash Chaliha, Debabrata Borgohain, Pranami Das, Anamika Chaliha, all of whom have been practicing organic farming in four districts covering 300 bighas in Majuli, Golaghat and Biswanath Chariali.
Pratyay Agro Product & Research Institute: An initiative by two engineers Naba Kumar Shyam and Deba Kumar Choudhury and a gang of 5 young enterprising boys from Bortari village, 50 km away from Guwahati near Choygaon, who have charted success stories with their organic Malbhog Banana cultivation, which began in 2007 in 10 bighas of land. It has grown by leaps and bounds now with over 100 banana farmers engaged in over 500 bighas.
This group of motivated youths went on to start a goat milk farm on 50 bighas of land. In 2012, they began a diary farm and now are operating with 85 milking cows and selling pure whole milk, paneer, cream, toned milk and ghee at Bipanan Khetra. The research institute forayed into newer territories of banana cultivation and sericulture too.
The other partners include Dee Bee Poultry, Fish Lounge that collects live fish from local farmers, Maturi Fruits LLP which promotes exotic & imported fruits & vegetables.
Kameng Agro: Established by Gautam Hazarika, Papu Bora, and Puranjoy Neog in 2008 for research and development of organic farming. They imparted training to farmers of NE, launched their own organic fruits and vegetables farms at Shergaon and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Khetri and Tetelia (Assam) and currently are engaged in developing organic villages at Meghalaya and Bhutan with a future aim to convert it into an organic belt.
The Khetra has also provided scope for empowerment of women through Self Help Group activities, and market for their products. As a result the Khetra has been blessed with various delicacies of Axomiya Jalpan – Hurum, varieties of Kumal Chaul, puffed and beaten rice, til, gur, doi, cream, ghee – collected from SHGs of various parts of the state.
What better platform for the traditional silk farmers! In Satyam Silk, farmers have found a trusted retailer for Assam silk, muga mekhela chadar and saree and ethnic dresses for women. The centre also gave space to women to run Sujan Creations a market for its hand embroidered and trendy mekhela chadors and sarees.