Lucknow, July 18 (IANS) A "Fish-on-Wheels" project that serves up delectable sea food delicacies in cities across the state is proving to be a hit across Uttar Pradesh. There is now a growing demand for franchises of the mobile fish parlours scheme undertaken by the Uttar Pradesh Fisheries Development Board.
The scheme was re-launched on a fixed subsidy last year though it was initially launched in 1985 but closed in 1995 after it went into losses. But with growing demand for good quality fish dishes from non-vegetarians in Avadh and other areas of the state, the fisheries department re-launched the scheme on a 30 percent subsidy last year.
Officials in the fisheries board say the sales of the mobile fish parlours - serving preparations like fish tomato curry, fish fry, fish sheek and shami kebabs, fish finger, fish rolls and mustard fish - have witnessed a quantum jump in the last few months, despite a gruelling summer, when people prefer mutton and chicken over fish because its consumption is seen as unhealthy during the breeding season.
The vans operate between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., the prices range between Rs.40 and Rs.140 and the returns are "reasonable to good", the franchisees say.
Some one dozen parlours are functioning in cities like Lucknow, Meerut, Faizabad, Ghaziabad, Jhansi, Gorakhpur, Varanasi and Moradabad, fisheries department assistant director S.K. Singh told IANS. The maximum number of mobile fish parlours operate in the temple town of Varanasi - given its large number of foreign visitors.
Many more such vans are in the pipeline and their number should rise quite a bit by the end of the year.
Under the scheme, which functions on a public-private-partnership (PPP) model, the fisheries corporation gives a 30 percent subsidy on the Rs.7.50 lakh cost of each mobile parlour. This covers the cost of the van, staff requirement and other infrastructure for sustained fish buying and storage.
To ensure that these vans serve the best quality dishes, the fisheries board is conducting an ambitious fish rearing project under which the franchisees are provided the best quality raw material fresh every day, said an official.
The response of the public has been heartening.
"To get the best of fish like the Rohu and even sea food like prawns in this part of India is indeed a treat," said Amitabh Saxena, a fish lover in Lucknow.
And, since the food is readied in front of the customers, it is hygienic too.
Javed Ahmad, a dietician, is all for the fish dishes as they are a great source of good health.
"Fish is any day preferred over red meat and I am told by many of my clients that they are now getting good quality fish in the state capital," Ahmad told IANS.
The government, an official said, would be holding information camps throughout the state after the monsoon, to educate and inform the people about the benefits of the fish business. Lucknow, the heart of the erstwhile Avadh empire, has been the bastion of red-meat with most Nawabs in the past and the generation of today preferring delicacies like bhuna gosht, shaami kebab, galawati kabab and mutton do pyaza over white meat.
Fish has never been a preferred food in Lucknow, but it is heart-warming to see the crossover from mutton to fish, said Zulfi Hasan, a chef at a prominent eatery in Lucknow.
(Mohit Dube can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)