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The ubiquitous Congress grass, here is why it is named so and how Jawaharlal Nehru gifted this poisonous weed to the nation

People named the weed ‘Congress grass’, considering it as a gift from the Congress government to the nation.

If you live in India, whether in a posh upmarket locality or a poor roadside jhuggi, the odds are that you have seen the weed called “Congress grass” everywhere. Unless you stay locked up inside your home, there is no escaping this weed in India.

However, it is not native to India, and yet it is everywhere in India, that is the curious part. This toxic invasive species named Parthenium hysterophorus was not present in India when we gained independence, but soon, it was everywhere. So what happened, well, Jawaharlal Nehru happened to India.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Congress gifted the ‘poisonous weed’ to the nation

During the 1950s, after independence, India was facing a food shortage. To mitigate this crisis, the Congress government at the centre at that time decided to import wheat from the USA. The food-grain was obtained under the PL 480 (food for peace) programme of the USA. But the wheat that was shipped to India was of inferior quality, and it was mixed with seeds of the parthenium weed. Thus from this shipment from the USA, the dangerous weed spread in India.

Spotted first in Pune, five decades down the line, it can now still be found in Andaman-Nicobar Islands. It is alleged that when the weed was first spotted, the government didn’t take any step to stop its spread. For this reason, people named the weed ‘Congress grass’, considering it as a gift from the Congress government to the nation.

The poisonous and invasive parthenium, commonly known as ‘congress grass’ or ‘gajar ghas’ is known to have created nuisance in many parts of the world. The weed, which is known to cause skin and respiratory diseases owing to its poisonous property, has already created havoc in many Indian states, including Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

The congress grass grows extremely fast along the roads in many villages and kills many other flora species on its way. The weed has managed to thrive even at places where other species of weeds have not survived and cattle, too, stay away from them. According to experts, the weed needs to be removed manually with hands before it escalates and reaches the next phase. The species is harmful to humans as well as animals.

If left unchecked the grass could spread uncontrollably within a short span of time. The plant grows about 5-6 feet in height and can produce as many as 5,000-10,000 seeds. The seeds, which are lightweight can spread far and wide with help of wind, rain and human and cattle movement, leading to uninterrupted growth.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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