Kalimpong/Kolkata: As Kalimpong goes to polls this Saturday, demand for more focus on indigenous trade and stress on their export has taken over traditional issues, like water scarcity and better connectivity.
Clusters of villages at Sangsay, Ecchay, Makhal Dara and Algarah, have, over the last few years, moved on from traditional forms of farming to cultivate and export a home-grown delicacy — Dalle Khorsani — one of the spiciest chillies that sell for over Rs 600 per kg. The maximum value stays around Rs 200 per kg.
But a recent development has put farmers in a fix with the Centre awarding the GI tag to the product with a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) in the range of 1,00,000 to 3,50,000 to Sikkim, leaving farmers in north Bengal fuming. The chilli is used in pickles and sauces.
“The leaders need us only during votes. But what about our daily problems? After all the hard work, the GI tag for Dalle has gone to Sikkim. This would certainly depreciate the export value of our product. We will cast our vote, but it’s time the leaders focus on our indigenous trade,” said Suraj Ghimire, a farmer.
Pranab Hazra, professor and dean of department of vegetable sciences at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishva Vidyalaya, said, “GI tags help establish effective agriculture brands, especially for lesser known ethnic products.”
Dalle cultivated in north Bengal is exported to Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, USA and UAE, and traders like Sushma Pradhan and Passang Doma Sherpa fear the GI tagging will have an impact on the export numbers this year.
Entrepreneurs associated with dairy enterprises, including manufacturing of lollipop, pickle, dried Gundruk (fermented and sun-dried mix of radish leaves) and Kalimpong cheese, also demanded more support from central and state authorities to keep the businesses alive.
Samuel Yonzon, founder of Diary Makarios Bous, said the essence of Kalimpong cheese is missing and there is no real cheese in town any more.
Kalimpong’s BJP candidate and educationist Suva Pradhan said, “If we come to power, we will revive the indigenous trade and farming of Kalimpong.”
Ruden Sada Lepcha and R B Bhujel, independent candidates fielded by the Binoy Tamang and Bimal Gurung factions of GJM respectively, also said revival of traditional and indigenous trade tops the list of their priorities this election.

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