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Khesari Dal: A look at India’s most controversial Pulse

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
Saumy Deepak Tripathi

The year was 1961 when the Indian government banned the Khesari Dal deeming it unfit for consumption. The cause of the ban was that a neurological disorder called lathyrism was linked to it. The dal was banned for half a century before states began to rethink the ban. Several states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and West Bengal have revoked the ban.

The cultivation of khesari dal was allowed as it was being used as animal fodder, but now several studies have been challenging the concept of linking the dal to lathyrism. Khesari has been dubbed as the poor man’s pulse. 

The pulse has an advantage as it grows almost without any effort and requires minimal water and growth within four months. A study titled “Study of Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice in Participants with Regular Intake of Lathyrus, But No Spastic Paraparesis” was conducted by doctors at Institue of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University. The study aimed to find whether there was any linkage between lathyrism and Khesari Dal, according to the study” Nearly 97% of total screened population totally fed on Khesari pulse as their major source of food and we did not found a single case of primary walking difficulty. We did find three cases of post-stroke paralysis, a case of post-GBS lower limb weakness and a case of recurrent myelitis as a part of questionnaire-based study and then followed by personally examining the patients to confirm the diagnosis”.

Another study by the Food and Drug Toxicology Centre, Hyderabad in the Gondia district of Maharashtra said “ It was also evident from this study that consumption of grass pea in small quantities did not lead to neurolathyrism. The availability of different food sources to even marginal sections of people perhaps increased the nutritional status. If the nutritional value of this pulse can be utilized effectively, it may become a good source of protein”.

Moreover, states like Bihar are now making efforts to increase the production of the pulse as they look to solve the problem of the food crisis and more states are expected to follow suit.

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