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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

aams of Valsad - guarded by pathans on horses !!

Summer  is the time of delicious mango season.  Mango is a fruit that has enriched literature. So many stories, real as well as apocryphal, are associated with this sublime fruit. Like cricket among all sports, mango among all fruits has lent itself to the folklore of Indian and subcontinental literature.  Every place in India,  have their own variety of mangoes – some to be eaten ripe, some green and raw and some pickled and devoured.  Sure you can add more to this list ……..Alphonso, Totapuri, Aambaat, Banganapalli,  Neelam, Sindhoori, Malda, Pairi, Chandrakaran, Alphonso, Langra, Gulaab khaas, peddarasalu, Kesar, dashehari, movandhan, mallika …..

Valsad is a municipality in the Valsad district of  state  of Gujarat. Historically, Valsad was a small town covered with forest, with teak production as a major regional industry. It was a part of regional kingdom before colonial era. It was made a district during the Bombay Presidency era, and was governed under Bombay State during the colonial era.  Today, Valsad is a town inhabited by Gujarati people.

OF the many varieties, the  Alphonso Mango is considered to be among the most superior varieties, in terms of sweetness, richness and flavour. It was the Portuguese who introduced grafting on mango trees to produce extraordinary varieties like Alphonso. The fruit was then introduced to the Konkan region.  The most expensive of the varieties of mango is grown mainly in the western part of India including Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Raigad districts and in the Konkan region of India. Each mango weighs between 150 and 300 grams.  The famous Valsadi hafoos ( alphonsos) and kesars  have reportedly found a place in the shelves of Walmart too.  when it is expensive, and in demand, it needs to be cared and protected too ...

An article in Times of India, Chennai edition of date titled ‘not so aam anymore: King of fruits gets security cover in Surat’ makes an interesting read.

Besides the dangling hafoos, it is hard to miss the eight stern-looking men on horses going around this 300 bigha mango orchards spread across five villages in Valsad district in Gujarat. These stick-wielding men ensure that mangoes are not stolen. There are nearly 45 such men, traditionally known as `Pathans', who are guarding a large number of orchards in nearly 25 villages of this Valsadi hafoos hub.

Mangoes have become a precious commodity that needs to be guarded well after nearly 70% of the crop was wiped away due to five wet spells since February . These Pathans are specially called along with their horses from Barmer in Rajasthan. “When mango production falls, chances of theft are very high as the fruit would fetch higher prices in the market. We are left with no option but to deploy security to protect whatever is left on the trees,“ said Rasesh Desai, whose family owns 12,000 mango trees, including 5,000 Valsadi hafoos trees. The orchards are spread across five villages of Lila pore, Kundi, Dhamdachi, Thakkarwada and Rabda near Valsad. Desai has been paying each guard Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month.

MusaKhan Pathan, who supplies these security men, said, “The practice of hiring Pathans from Barmer started 20 years ago. Initially, people in Valsad called us to protect their villages from thieves. But our role has got limited to mango orchards now.”.. “When Pathans patrol the orchards on horse-back, people think twice before any misadventure,“ said Desai.
In some cases the entire village hires services of these Pathans to protect their mango orchards. Village like Thigra, Solvada and Khajori in Valsad have small orchards so they have collectively hired services of Pathans and the cost will be evenly distributed among farmers. 
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17th Apr 2015.

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