Will Modi make litti, chokha cheaper?

AM Jigeesh Patna | Updated on November 24, 2017

A street-vendor selling litti-chokha. SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Bihar finds its popular foods getting costlier by the year

Litti, chokha, anarsa and khaja, once popular food among the poor in Bihar, are beyond their reach now.

Over the past 10 years, the prices of these food items have increased several times. As a result, litti outlets in Patna have more affluent customers than poor.

Vendors blame this on the increase in the price of ingredients that has forced them to hike prices.

Ram Kumar, a rickshaw puller in Patna for the past 15 years, said he used to get litti and chokha for ₹2 a decade back in the suburbs of the city. “Now I will have to pay ₹10 for one litti. They sell a plate of two for ₹20,” he said.

Sanjay, who runs four push-carts that sell litti and chokha in and around the city, said both sattu (a mix of powdered black gram, garlic and masala powder) and wheat have become costly.

“Ten years ago I was the first one to start a trolley selling litti in the city. I used to sell it for ₹5 in 2004. Now, it is ₹10,” he said. In 2004, black gram was priced at ₹32 a kilo. “Now the cost is ₹70. The price of a kilo of atta is ₹24. Ten years ago it was ₹8,” he said.

Richer buyers

Sanjay sells about 1,000 littis daily from one outlet. “I have improved my business as the class of people who come to eat littis has changed. This is considered as a healthy diet with no chemicals or preservatives added,” he said.

Take the case of Bihar’s own sweets, khaja and anarsa. Local myth connects khaja with Lord Buddha. “This sweet has a history of more than 2,000 years,” said Anil Kumar, who runs five shops selling anarsa and khaja in front of the Patna museum. His father started a shop selling traditional sweets and savouries in the area. Now he and his siblings run five shops. They sell on an average 500 kg a day, Kumar said.

When Kumar entered the business about 25 years ago, khaja was ₹8 a kg. Now it is ₹140. “Cooking gas is our main headache. I will have to shell out about ₹2,000 for a cylinder of commercial gas. We want to install an electrical furnace. We hope that the Government will give us some subsidy,” he said.

The price of anarsa, prepared using rice, sesame seeds and khoya (a milk product), has doubled to ₹240 per kilo over the past 10 years. Kumar believes that Narendra Modi will give more subsidies to small-scale industrialists like him. “The BJP candidate here, Shatrughan Sinha, has done nothing for us. But Modi has promised subsidies for small-scale units,” he said.

CPI(M) State Secretariat member Sarvodaya Sharma said poor people are finding it difficult after 10 years of UPA Government. “Litti is part of Bihar’s agrarian culture. People used to prepare this in their farms. It’s nutritious and tasty. It helped a number of poor people to sustain. But the price rise has added to their miseries,” Sharma said.

Published on April 27, 2014

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