It was in this village, Shahzadpur in Samastipur district, that the Nitish Kumar government started a pilot project for fisheries back over a decade ago.
“No one can call us idlers now,” says Vimal Kishore Thakur as he proudly shows off his pond where he farms fish. In his village of 60 households, discussions usually revolve around fish — be it the new fast-breeding varieties such as the Amur from Bhubaneswar or the favourites like Rohu and Katla.
It was in this village, Shahzadpur in Samastipur district, that the Nitish Kumar government started a pilot project for fisheries back over a decade ago. Now, it has turned into a nursery for prospective fish farmers.
Thakur is one of four farmers who initially helped sparked the fishery frenzy in the upper-caste Bhumihar village, also breaking a caste barrier along the way — the profession is associated with Extremely Backward Classes such as the Mallah or Nishad communities.
Thakur, along with Sunil Kumar, Kaushal Kishore Thakur and Chandrakant Thakur, dug up 19 ponds in a part of a vast stretch of low-lying flooded land in 2010. Under water for most of the year, the 120-acre area would remain unirrigated, only occasionally yielding paddy.
The state government started giving a 30 per cent subsidy (now 50 per cent) for digging one pond. More villagers dug up ponds and Shahzadapur became a pilot project of the state government.
For a village once stuck with unproductive land and accused of having “idlers”, the turnaround has been stunning. Residents now cumulatively earn an average yearly profit of Rs 3 crore, said Thakur.
At present, 40 residents own 60 ponds spread over the 100 acres. Ten other ponds are coming up. “We did not know this land could give us any return. The minimum profit per acre is Rs 2 lakh. The village farmers cumulatively earn a profit of about Rs 3 crore”, said Thakur.
The Bihar Chief Minister has long spoken about self-reliance in fish breeding. He visited the village in 2012 and spoke about the potential for fisheries in the state.
Kumar, another one of the four residents who first took up the profession, said the real boost came when some village residents met Sushil Kumar Modi, the then Deputy Chief Minister and Fisheries Minister. Modi agreed to send four Shahzadapur farmers along with 36 others to Andhra Pradesh for training in fisheries.
“The Bihar government had already sent 26 batches of farmers for training in Andhra Pradesh. We were the 27th batch,” said Kumar.
He also remembers a jibe from a senior officer in the Bihar fisheries department who said they were simply going to idle about in posh hotels. “This hurt us immensely. We returned to the village with a resolve to do something,” says Kumar as he shows this correspondent around his vast pond, teeming with fish.
The farmers get two fish varieties a year— Rohu and Katla. Local fish sellers who used to depend on Andhra Pradesh till a few years ago now only buy from the village.
The fish breeders of Shahzadpur are now helping start fish farming other areas as well — 85 acres in Jhanjharpur (Madhubani), 15 acres in Hasanpur, 12 acres in Sarairanjan, 15 acres in Vidyapati Nagar (Samastipur) and 15 acres in Siwan.
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