Revenge of the antique rice grain

As Chinmoy Das tells it, it all began in September 2007. Several districts of West Bengal were flooded. Walking through one such limpid countryside along the banks of the Kulik river in North Dinajpur, Das, a Geography teacher, was surprised to see some paddy crops still standing erect, undamaged.

That left Das and his two friends — Sudipta Mukherjee, an officer with the fire services department in Calcutta, and Rupak Kumar Paul, a college teacher — intrigued. Das says, “That is the first time we learnt about paddy that is flood-resistant.” Thereafter, the three decided to follow up the revelation with some serious research. In due course, they came to know about paddy varieties that are drought-resistant and others that can grow in brackish water.

They also learnt that these indigenous or folk varieties with names such as Kalli, Changa, Kochi, Malsera, Kakri, Bahurupi had ceded place to high-yielding hybrid rice, a hot market favourite. Five years later, Das and his friends launched the Forum for Indigenous Agricultural Movement or FIAM, a platform to rejuvenate lost varieties of rice.