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Return of noxious VIP culture  


The Supreme Court in its ruling on April 18, 2017 had set the deadline of May 1st for banning red beacons and sirens on all vehicles of the Governmental, Judiciary, Legislature, parliament et al. This was implemented in Meghalaya for the last 2 years and the common public in Shillong heaved a sigh of relief and peace. However, with the passage of time, many ministers, officials of the Meghalaya Government and MLAs have started activating the sirens in their vehicles and are zooming fearlessly through the traffic in Shillong. This includes the police who are supposed to enforce the ban. The traffic police in Shillong city is unable to stop and control such siren-obsessed vehicles used by powerful people and are mere spectators. Even the President and Prime minister of India are respecting the ban. It seems these state ministers, MLAs, officials etc are above the President and the Prime Minister of our country, are more powerful and have total disregard for the ban. Many police officials in the city are openly and illegally using the siren in their vehicles, which are not even escort vehicles. Let me remind that only the police escort, emergency and ambulatory vehicles are allowed to sound the siren. It seems that this ban is slowly dying and soon the city and state will again return to the obnoxious VIP culture. May I ask the SP (City In Charge Traffic) to enforce the ban without fear or favour and uphold it strictly. I also ask the Meghalaya Chief Minister to direct all officials in the Government to desist from using the siren in their vehicles and also to the Speaker of Meghalaya Legislative assembly to direct the MLAs not to use the siren. I hope this letter shall have an impact and the common people in the city shall have a noiseless VIP vehicular movement.

Yours etc.,

Dr. HS Ranhotra  

Shillong -3


Wild Indigenous Vegetables


Apropos the article, “Indigenous food system: A bulwark against food insecurity” by Bhogtoram Mawroh and Lamphrang Diengdoh, (ST July 18, 2018) it is true that mother’s home-cooked dishes make a wholesome meal for children. But kids are very fussy about what they eat. At one time our grandma would find a bucket of vegetables from the backyard of the house. The vegetables are sautéed and mixed with other vegetables. Kids were seated around the fireplace and eat what was served. Our chef, grandma always made fun and happily served us with love.

North East India is home to varied indigenous vegetables that are cheap sources of nutrition apart from being delicious. There are herbs, shrubs, trees, and creepers. These are locally cultivated and even grow wild. They are sold in every nook and corner of the village and city markets. The part of the plant most commonly consumed are the leaves, but tender shoots, buds, flowers, flower buds and calyxes were also consumed. Some are dried or used as pickles. The hill people have more flair in identifying culturally and nutritionally effective traditional vegetables. Tribal communities living in forested areas are entirely dependent upon plants for their livelihoods. Rice is the main cereal food and the communities depend on traditional diets such as wild vegetables, fruits, flowers, tubers and rhizomes that grow profusely on their own. During the rainy season, abundant leafy vegetables grow in forests under natural conditions near fields, roadsides and water lands. Leafy vegetables are known as the poor man‘s spinach! Leaves and stems are good sources of iron, calcium, vitamin A and C.

Besides beans, pulses and spices, the cuisines of Assam include plenty of leafy and non-leafy vegetables. Paleng (spinach), maanimuni (Asiatic pennywort), pudina (mint), kolmou (water spinach),  brahmi, masendori, nora-singho (curry leaf), bhedai-lota (stinkvine), laai, moricha/datha (amaranth), khutura (green amaranth), pui (red vine), chukka, lofa, jilmil, doron, methi are leafy vegetables available here. In addition to vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, potato, beet, there is kosu (taro), koldil/kolphul (banana flower), kaskol (curry banana),  posola (banana shoot), bhut jolokia, outenga (elephant apple), sojina (drumstick) that are unique non-leafy vegetables. Alas! The consumption of these plants is not socially acceptable by some communities because they are considered to be food for the poor. They are typically cooked in curry, soups, or salads and are famous in Naga kitchens. Tribal communities may have access to cabbage and cauliflower, but these are costly to purchase. Besides, radish, cauliflower, cabbage or fenugreeks are available only in winter. Traditional processing methods like soaking, adding tamarind, and prolonged cooking are practised by tribal communities to detoxify vegetables with anti-nutrients and render them safe for human consumption.

Regardless of high poverty levels in eastern India, people are in relatively good health. Leafy greens are among the most nutritious vegetables and are a significant source of calcium, iron, vitamin C, and folic acid and are also rich sources of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. They are high in fibre, extremely low in fat and carbohydrates, and provide an excellent source of protein. The potential of these plants for alleviating poverty and ensuring household food and nutrition security has not been exploited. If traditional vegetables have been neglected, it may result in loss of biodiversity. Food adulteration is a rising problem in India. It starts from fertilizers to pesticides that are overused. Now people are aware and they are switching over from global to indigenous vegetables. They are ergonomically feasible and easy to trade. If these vegetables are commercialized, the quantity available in rural markets will likely increase. A larger supply could lead to increased consumption by local communities, which can help strengthen nutrition security. In urban areas, the willingness to consume traditional vegetables is high. The Sunday markets are flooded with local vegetables, but the supply is sporadic and seasonal. Should India go for complete ban on chemical fertilizers for greater interest of common people?

Indigenous (traditional) vegetables play an important role for the sustainability of economy, human nutrition and health. Even though they are consumed in rural and urban environments they are yet to attain global recognition like tomato or cabbage. These species deserve much greater recognition and investment in agricultural R&D and crop biodiversity in horticulture. Sikkim has become the first fully organic state. They have replaced chemical fertilisers with organic manures and control insect pests and diseases through biological plant protection measures. Kerala, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Gujarat have already taken a leaf out of the Sikkim model of organic farming. Gulf States import million tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables and India is the top three supplier of the world with Egypt and Jordan. Surprisingly they are all organic vegetables. But our native countrymen find their produce adulterated. Indigenous crops are being neglected and have received little scientific attention to date. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) is the apex body for Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries and Animal Science and for Farmers welfare. It is time to rescue, conserve and utilize the genetic diversity of wild indigenous vegetables under threat of genetic erosion. Our forefathers knew what to eat and grow with indigenous flavour. We must commit to a healthier and resilient world through greater diversity.

Yours etc.

Kamal Baruah



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