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New Shidol technique generates employment for Tripura’s indigenous women

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Agartala: Shidol (fermented dry fish) known as Berma in the colloquial language of Tripura has long been considered as a staple diet in the state for its proven quality of building resistance against viral diseases. But only remaining confined to an appetite, this processed food product is now gradually generating income for many indigenous women.

This has happened after the state government has shifted track from the existing process of fermenting fish to adopt a new, unique and indigenously developed technique of Shidol.
It is traditionally prepared in large pots, this technique has now been redesigned by fishery officer Raju Lal Debbarma. The technique enables Shidol producers to prepare the dry fish product in 3 Kg small pots. The new Shidol is renamed as Langi Berma. Berma is the Kokborok name of dry fish and Langi as a prefix connotes the pots used to make the products. Langi was actually a kind of rice bear prepared by indigenous people of Tripura in the pots which are now engaged in making Shidol. This process is unique to Tripura and nowhere else any reference of such a technique has been found.

Chief Officer of Tripura Apex Fisheries Cooperative Society Ltd, Raju Lal Debbarma recalled days of his posting at Teliamura when this idea first struck his mind. Debbarma worked relentlessly to develop the fermented fish technique with stipulated arrangements and after 3 to 4 failed attempts he finally hit the success in 2017.

“Earlier Shidol was largely imported from Bangladesh. Since 2017, the indigenous people have successfully implementing this technology to make Shidol. Shidol being one of the preferred food items of Tripura for both the Bengalis and tribal communities, I have tried to reach out to every rural household so that they can produce their own Shidol which will cut down our import dependence,” he said.

The traditional process of Shidol-making required huge set up and large pots. Besides, the mechanism that was involved demanded leg-rolling the set-up, which was only possible by men. The idea, he said, was to give the tribal women an income boost. The new customised process enables women to easily stuff the dry fish and the set-up can also be installed in the backyard of the house.

Basically, the fermentation process in large pots takes six months which keeps a huge money stuck in the business. On the contrary, small pots give end products within three to four months and the prices also remain competitive giving the traders an edge in Shidol making business.

Recently, Mukthang SHG group of Champak Nagar earned accolades for preparing Langi Berma at a fish festival. One of the members of the group Ratilata Debbarma said, “Usually, the giant pots are sold for Rs 15 to 16 thousand that carry 35 to 40 Kg of dry fish. The small pots can bear 2.5 to a little over 3 kg, once the fermentation process is complete. By and large, the quantum of profit remains the same and many women are now showing interest to join the business.”

Nanda Lal Debbarma, another key member of the group who has been instrumental in setting up initiatives like Shikang and Baithang, companies that deal in dry fish products, said, “Initially we also made in large quantities, but eventually thought of preparing the product in lesser volumes, which we felt can double the profit. The idea worked well for us and more and more women of the tribal areas are now showing interest to make it in their kitchen. Products are available in desirable quantities, and one can also buy a whole pot.”

The lockdown has given a severe blow to the Shidol business. Traditionally Shidol is a cure to diseases like fever and cold and COVID-19 situation has added up to the market demand but sadly, due to the lockdown, makers have failed to prepare Shidol for one season in 2020.

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Call me “Dada”, not “Sir”, Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb to employees

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Agartala: In what appears to be a step to boost the morale of the government employees, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Sunday asked the government employees to call him “Dada” instead of “Sir”. “Call me Dada, not sir. It enhances the warmth of the relationship”, Deb told a gathering of government employees.

Deb exhorted the government employees of the state especially ASHA and Anganwadi workers of the state asking them not to dishearten as the state government was eager to improve their pay structure.

“I salute the ASHA and Anganwadi workers of my state. The level of dedication that my sisters have shown during the pandemic period deserved applause. I know, they want to hear good news from me and I am assuring you all that this government will not disappoint anyone”, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb told a gathering of government employees at Badharghat sports school field organized by Vivekananda Vicha Manch (VVM).

VVM has emerged as a big platform of government employees, of late, and Sunday’s public rally was its first big gathering to thank the Chief Minister for the series of steps his government took for the welfare of the employees.

“I know what challenges you people are facing. Nothing is hidden in front of me. I am assuring you all everything will be taken care of in the due course of time”, he added.  Lauding the efforts of government employees Deb said, without them no government office can function.

“Due to the efforts of government employees, people can access the benefits of the state sponsored welfare schemes. But, for a prolonged period the employees did not get their right to do something freely. They were trapped in the clutches of unions. In the previous regime, Left sponsored unions used to enjoy supreme power which had reduced the whole work culture of the state to tatters. In 2018, you people showed courage and voted BJP to power”, said Deb.

“Despite fund constraints, the state government is positively working on the issues of DA and other factors pertaining to the interest of the government employees. Our government has already addressed a number of issues related to financial benefits. The ad-hoc promotion, increment for Group D, Group C employees, regularization of SSA teachers, seventh pay scale, UGC scale for professors, special benefit for LTC are to name a few. All these indicate what we want to do and we shall do what we promise”, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister also asked the officials not to call him “sir” suggesting them to refer to him as “Dada” as it makes the relationship stronger and cherished. The Chief Minister also distributed clothes among children of Badharghat sports school during the programme. State BJP President Manik Saha, Minister Ram Prasad Paul, Minister Sushanta Chowdhury, MLA Mimi Majumder, state BJP Vice President and president of Vivekananda Vichar Manch Rajib Bhattacharjee also spoke on the occasion.

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