Miniket is nothing but a misnomer

Miniket is nothing but a misnomer

So, the country's rice huskers or millers have managed to bluff their ways into business. For more than one and a half decades they have been marketing rice under the fictitious brand name called 'miniket' which in reality has no existence in terms of generic types. What has come to be known as 'miniket' is a misspelt word derived from 'minikit', a packet of two kilograms of paddy seeds distributed among farmers first by the West Bengal state government and then by the central Indian government under a series of test programmes to evaluate the variety's adaptability to soil and weather conditions of different regions in India.

In the mid-1980s, farmers in Jassore close to the border procured what is known as 'Shatabdi' variety for cultivation but in terms of yield this slender and aromatic paddy could not compete with BRRI-28 and 29. It seems the misspelt 'miniket' tag has stayed in West Bengal for the rice still available there. But what has gained currency in Bangladesh is a monumental bluff. No such rice is cultivated here but the business is as brisk as half of the total 38.4 million tonnes of rice produced here is passed as 'miniket' and 'super miniket'.

Now what are these two so-called fine varieties of rice? If the hybrid coarse varieties such as BRRI-28,29, 33,43,48,50 are chiselled to slender shapes and polished in the auto-husking mills to give them white and shiny look, they turn into 'miniket' and if Bina,Swarna, Guti, Jira Shail and other slimmer varieties are thus doctored with, they become 'super miniket'.

Now the question is, how could this fraudulent practice with the nation's staple go on for decades? It seems the authorities knew it from the beginning as agricultural scientists have made it explicitly known. Some of them even carried out research on this subject but this deception was overlooked. If adulteration of food and outfoxing a buyer take place in a business transaction where substandard goods can be passed on as a genuine variety, are these not considered criminal acts?

In this case, the coarse varieties of rice at least had the inside coat containing fibre, oil, vitamin-B, thiamin anti-oxidant, selenium and magnesium etc. But when cut and polished (with chemical that may hazardous for health), rice lose 80 per cent of vitamin B1, 67 per cent B3 and 90 per cent of B6 and 50 per cent of magnesium. According to the food ministry, millers make an extra profit of Tk 300 on tampering with a sac (a little over 37 kilograms) of rice.

The gullible public may be faulted with their demand for a finer variety of rice but not making the extra effort to know about the main dish that comprises their daily meal. But this is no culpable crime. After all, here is a sellers' market and traders more often than not resort to the arm-twisting tactic to dig deep into consumers' pockets.

After decades, the food ministry appears to have woken up from its epical Kumbhakrna-like slumber to inform the public that the multitudes of miniket-loving people are in fact being deceived. They pay more and get less value on their money. Under its instruction, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) has decided to launch a drive against, production, marketing and sale of what is deceptively known as 'miniket' rice. Let the drive be as stringent as it should be to bring an end to the bluff.

However, should the elements who have committed the crime in the name of business be allowed to go scot-free without penalty? Indeed, law has not been impartial to people with muscle and money power. This explains why leniency shown to the privileged segments has left a corrupting influence on society. Business syndicates and others have taken undue advantage and manipulated market, social and legal system, creating a culture of arcane social justice.


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