When I was doing my studies in Tamil Nadu, more than once I was asked if Tripura was a part of India. Such turn of questioning always left me speechless as I couldn't understand how to respond to the implications of the query. Firstly, it meant that the enquirer did not posses a basic knowledge of Geography, and secondly, it showed how much our state had been neglected all these years. I really wished people knew more about Tripura. As it turns out, that day might not be far. The indigenous knowledge and innovations being churned out by the state is beginning to make headlines after headlines.
Tripura has emerged as a producer of bamboo tea, bamboo salt, jackfruit, and now the Queen pineapple. It was actually President Ramnath Kovind who declared the Queen variety of pineapple to be the state fruit when he first visited Tripura on 7th June 2018. That is when the amazingly aromatic, sweet, and juicy Queen pineapple came under the media limelight. Soon after, its popularity grew and now it is being exported to Dubai and London. Its smell is enough to make oneself want to delve into its awesome deliciousness. Queen Pineapple is believed to be high in the enzyme Bromelain, which is a natural anti-inflammatory property and antioxidants. Did you know that this variety of pineapple got its own GI tagging in 2015?
Pineapples have traditionally been grown in Tripura for many decades although I am not sure who introduced it. Even my grandmother had a Queen pineapple garden as did many indigenous farmers. The fruit ripened in summer months and the orchard used to turn into a picnic spot as nephews, nieces, and grandchildren gathered to make the most of the summer goodness. My grandmother had a big fruit orchard filled with lime, mangoes, litchis, oranges, coconut, and pineapples. Many of my childhood memories as well as those of other indigenous children are tied to my afternoons spent in the orchard.
Actually, Tripura is blessed with natural resources and fertile soil. Almost anything that is being grown, grows well with the soil. Tripura Chief Minister happens to think the same way and hence the first consignment of 1 tonne of queen pineapple from Dhalai district of Tripura was sent to Dubai (via New Delhi) in 2018. The shipment was flagged off by Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and Agriculture Minister Pranajit Singha Roy. Last year in June 2020, amidst the corona pandemic, a consignment of 10 MT pineapples were exported to Dubai (via Mumbai) from Kumarghat of Unakoti district of Tripura and another 500kg was exported to New Delhi for local markets.
Now that the Kisan Rail has been launched for famers to be able to export agricultural products and have better exposure to national and international markets, hopefully the sales will increase. The train comes with 18 General coaches and 2 SLR took off for the first time in the whole North-eastern region on June 11 this year from Agartala for Delhi (Adarsh Nagar). The train carried 543 packages containing 8,930 kg of the state’s sweet Queen pineapple. The Chief Minister hopes that this initiative will be great benefit to the farmers as well as the state.
Kisan Rail was first launched in India on 7th August 2020 where the farmers have to pay only 50% and the government pays rest 50% subsidy on carrying charges. The main motive of such rail is to encourage farmers reach out to better markets and earn proper value for their produce. It is only this year that this kind of integrated special rail has been extended to North-East India under the North East Frontier Railway which is a boon to farmers and is a matter of pride for the state.
As the Central and State government has opened a new path for the farmers to reach national and international markets, the farmers need to make the best of the opportunity. Development comes with participation and with the active participation and appropriate awareness, the state shall surely prosper.
These days, people in the state are also growing dragon fruits. Many homes have their terraces turned into a mini green house where the fruit is planted. Maybe in days to come, we shall be celebrating the success of one other fruit from the state!
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.