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Mon, 20 Aug 2018

Northeast Today

Boka Saul of Assam “That Needs No Cooking” Gets GI Tag

Boka Saul of Assam “That Needs No Cooking” Gets GI Tag
August 10
14:33 2018

Boka saul, also known as ‘mud rice’, a paddy variety grown in parts of lower Assam — Nalbari, Barpeta, Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang, Dhubri, Chirang, Bongaiagoan, Kokrajhar, Baksa etc. has got Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Government of India’ Intellectual Property India (IPI) body.

“Boka saul requires zero fuel. The rice does not need to be cooked!” says Hemanta Baishya, founder-Member of Lotus Progressive Centre, one of the two organisations who applied for the patent in 2016. “Just soak the rice in (cold) water for one hour, and it swells up like a charm. Mix it with curd, jaggery and banana, and it’s ready to eat. It will sort you for the whole day,” says Baishya, adding that the higher grade boka saul swells up in fifteen minutes flat.

From 2014 onwards, Baishya’s Lotus Progressive Centre (a Nalbari-based NGO that has been working specifically for the conservation and preservation of indigenous rice varieties since 1999) along with Simanta Kalita of Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Guwahati, has been doing research and running scientific tests in order to acquire a GI tag for the rice.

While the “zero-fuel requirement” rates high on its unique quotient, boka saul — usually sowed in June and harvested in December — is highly nutritious. It has 10.73 per cent fibre content and 6.8 per cent protein, according to a study by the Guwahati University’s Biotechnology department. “It also cools down the body and is ‘default organic’. Even if you aid it with chemical fertilisers, it just will not respond — the crop will collapse!” says Baishya. Over the last four years, the scientific tests and analyses for boka saul was done in consultation with Assam Agricultural University, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Assam Science Technology and Environment Council and Guwahati University’s Biotechnology Department. According to Kalita, the rice can work well as a “disaster management” food as well as supplement for soldiers in high-altitude frontier areas. “During floods, this is a great ‘emergency food’ for obvious reasons. Going ahead, we hope the government will consider it for its relief programs,” says Kalita, who along with his colleague Himashree, has been involved with the research from day one.

Finally, on July 30, the IPI website updated the status of GI applicants. “And we featured on it! Even though we haven’t received the physical copy of our certificate yet we have been told that it’s coming soon,” says Baishya.

Following the announcement, the LPC has received a lot of enquiries about the ‘magic rice’. “The older generation is still aware but the younger lot will not be able to name even the better-known indigenous rice varieties of Assam, let alone boka saul,” says Baishya, expressing that the new status of the rice might turn things around. “Farmers, who up till now, were just growing it for themselves, will now be growing it for a wider audience. The boka rice, we hope, will then become a commercially-viable crop,” he says, “Moreover, with the ‘GI tag’, no one else in the world can claim this special rice for themselves — boka saul belongs only to Assam.”

- The Indian Express

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