Guwahati, Aug 29 (IANS): Hit by the Covid pandemic and allied economic crisis in the culture and music industry, well-known Assamese musician and singer Bipin Chawdang has been forced to shift to pisciculture for survival.

The 49-year-old musician who sings Assamese songs, particularly Bihu songs, in Karnataka, Telangana, West Bengal besides all across Assam has earned much appreciation from people of all ages.

Chawdang, father of a 16-year-old, said that he was jobless for around two years as there were Covid related restrictions on organising cultural functions and public events.

"Then I started thinking about exploring ideas, and discussed with my relatives and friends how to survive in a non-musical way.

"I had 12 bigha (1.6 hectare) of land which lay unutilised. As I have some experience in farming, I thought I should take a chance in pisciculture," the singer told IANS over phone from his home at Khoomtai Chakalia village in eastern Assam's Charaideo district.

Expecting financial as well as technical support, Chawdang approached Assam's Fishery Department as he learnt that he can get financial help (60 per cent subsidy on a fishery related project) under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).

"I dug a pond on my 12 bigha land. I have spent around Rs 17 lakh but so far in two instalments I have received subsidies to the tune of Rs 2.26 lakh against the Rs 10.20 lakh due.

"The Fishery Department had assured me that I would be given the remaining amount of the subsidy. I have been expecting the remaining financial help from the government for a long time. There are 6 to 7 varieties of fish in my pond.

"My wife (Monoshree Chowdang) and I are working hard to earn income from my new profession," the singer said.

The Fishery Department said Rs 2.26 lakh had been released to Chawdang out of the sanctioned amount of Rs 5.04 lakh. The fish in his pond has grown up to 400 grams.

Fishery Department officials said that with the Covid pandemic and subsequent financial and job crisis wiping out the livelihoods of scores of people, many youths have come forward to eke out their living by taking to pisciculture in a big way, thanks to the slew of government subsidy schemes.

"Bipin and his wife now want to make their pond an integrated fish farm and agro tourism spot. Their enthusiasm and dedication towards fisheries sector is exemplary," said Pratul Deka, Fisheries Development Officer.

He said that like Bipin and his wife, many educated unemployed youths who have been rendered jobless have resorted to pisciculture in a big way to eke out their livelihood with suitable subsidy from the government.

"To provide employment to youths during the pandemic period, the Fisheries Department has launched a new scheme for promoting intensive aquaculture through biofloc technology," Deka said.

Assam Fishery Department Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said the scheme which has many takers would provide livelihood to entrepreneurs, unemployed youths and interested fish farmers and will also increase fish production in the state.

"The scheme is most suitable for youths who face unemployment during the pandemic times," he said.

The biofloc-based farming system is a new technology for promotion of intensive fish and shrimp production in a small area.

A person having a small landholding (as small as 150-200 square metre of land) and having either municipal piped water supply or borewell water supply can establish this business with a small investment.

"The programme aims to support fish farmers and young entrepreneurs to earn their livelihood," the minister said.

Suklabaidya said that the government provides a subsidy of 40 per cent to general category people while a 60 per cent subsidy is provided to SC and ST beneficiaries.

"This new and emerging technology would boost fish production and encourage small landholders and entrepreneurs to take up fish farming," the Minister said, adding that the government would provide all technical knowhow for the project.

The system is suitable for growing freshwater fish species such as Pava, Koi, Magur, Singhi, Common Carp, Pangasius, Rupchanda and Rohu depending on local market demands.

Fisheries Development officer Pratul Deka said that a fish grows to about 200 grams within three months and 700-800 grams within six months. Therefore, depending on the local market demand, fish can be partially harvested on a daily basis to generate daily income," added Deka.

Biofloc farming system is also suitable for urban and semi-urban areas, the official said, adding that it can be set up even on the terraces of buildings and backyards.

According to the official, it offers live or fresh fish to the nearby customers thus fetching higher market prices for the producer. The cost for installation of a biofloc unit of two tanks is Rs 1.50 lakh, while a biofloc unit of 6 tanks costs approximately Rs 4 lakh.

Posted By: Mallika Mehzabeen