AGARTALA, Sept 26 (PTI): The fish-loving citizens of Tripura are facing a harrowing time with Bangladeshi exporters stopping the supply of fish to the state early this month over alleged extortion demand by anti-socials.
With only a fortnight to go before the start of the Durga puja festival, the snapping of supply has led to the increase in the prices of fishes like ‘rohu’, ‘katla’, and ‘pabda’ in the state, which is dependent on arrival from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bangladesh.
The supply was stopped after suspected goons allegedly stopped some exporters from entering the state after they refused to pay ‘tola’ (extortion money) at the Agartala-Akhaura integrated-checkpoint on September 4. A sizeable amount of fish enters the markets through the checkpoint, a customs official on the condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
Around 10,000 kg of fish, therefore, got spoiled, resulting in the loss of around 37,000 USD (approximately Rs 26,87,495 at current rates), he added.
When the Indian traders contacted their counterparts in Bangladesh, they clearly stated that if a responsible government official from India give a written assurance against any illegal interference in the trade in future, only then would they resume fish exports, the official said.
“There was a meeting of the exporters from Bangladesh in their country on September 17, during which they raised a question about how would they be compensated for their loss on September 4,” an executive of the Agartala Exporter and Importer Entrepreneur Sangha said.
The joint director of the state fisheries department, Abani Debbarma, said roughly 70 per cent of the total consumption of fish was produced in the state and the rest comes from Bangladesh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
The total consumption of fish per year in Tripura is 92,000 million tonnes, of which 72,276 million tonnes are produced in the state and the rest comes from outside, including Bangladesh. The per-capita fish consumption is around 22 kg in the state.
Speaking on the issue, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s state vice-president, Pratima Bhowmik, said she would take the initiative to solve the problem. “I will hold a meeting with the exporters and importers of the state to discuss how the problem can be solved. I am hopeful a solution will come out,” she told PTI.
A fish trader, Adhir Das, who sells fish at the Battala Market, the capital’s main market, said, “The price of fish is soaring every day, because production in the state is not sufficient for consumption. We are facing livelihood problem because there are hardly any customers. We are facing the problem for the last one month.”
When contacted, Selim Shah, economics professor at Tripura University, said, “Tripura is not self-reliant in fish production. We mainly depend on fish from Andhra Pradesh and Bangladesh.”
“The people are fond of fish from Bangladesh, because those are fresh. Durga puja is also knocking at the door. Requirement of fish is more during the festive season,” Shah said, expressing apprehensions that if the stalemate continued, fish would be out of reach of the common people.