It is official: no rat farming in Bihar

December 7th, 2008 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Dec 7 (IANS) The Bihar government has shelved its controversial plan to encourage deprived sections of society take up rat farming to improve their economic status after widespread criticism of the move.State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Saturday said there was no plan or project to encourage the socially and economically backward Dalit community to take up rat farming.

Addressing a gathering of Dalits here Saturday evening, he clarified such a proposal was put before him by the department concerned but he had asked the state’s chief secretary to abandon it.

The proposal had sparked off criticism and protest from opposition parties and some NGOs in the state while the Musahar community, which derives its name from a traditional practice of eating rats hunted from paddy fields, said the measure would keep them at the same lowly status they always had.

The Rashtriya Musahar-Bhuyian Vikas Parishad, a organisation working for the development of the community, had urged the state government no to go ahead with the project.

“We want to use the computer mouse rather than adopt rat farming. Times have changed, we are eager to change our lives,” said Umesh Manjhi, the convenor of the organisation.

“At a time when people are talking about India’s moon mission Chandrayaan-1, it is unfortunate that the Bihar government is planning to start rat farming for Dalits. We will oppose it,” he said.

An estimated 2.3 million Musahars live across Bihar in conditions of abject poverty. Less than five percent of them are literate and most of them make a living as labourers. They are still considered social untouchables despite a law against it.

The state government had earlier announced a pilot project to popularise rat meat, as part of its efforts to uplift Dalit communities that constitute nearly 15 percent of Bihar’s 83 million people.

Officials of social welfare department claimed that rat meat was available in the Mokameh Ghat area as well as roadside hotels in Danapur in Patna district, where it is called ‘patal-bageri’ and is in good demand.

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