People in West Bengal cry foul over compensation for birds’ culling

January 22nd, 2008 - 6:27 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss
Margram (WB), Jan 22 (ANI): Resistance of villagers to culling of birds is hampering the fight against bird flu in West Bengal.
People in Birbhum District’s Margram village resisted culling operations claiming that the compensation being awarded to them is low, slowing down the efforts to stamp out the disease.
“The government is saying that it is going to cull the birds, but we will not be getting the price that we get in the market, and so we are not ready to give up our chickens. The ones that are dying, we are packing them in polythene bags and discarding them,” said Sameer Sarkar, a villager.
Villagers also blamed the State Government for not informing them about the hazards of bird flu, as they admitted to careless disposal of dead birds.
“We do not know anything about bird flu and the government has also not informed us about the disease. The birds are dying and we are randomly throwing them in ponds or wherever we can dump them,” said Parvati Kundu, another villager.
The virus usually spreads through close contact with infected birds and their faeces.
Meanwhile, State officials have said that the outbreak of bird flu in West Bengal could spiral out of control, as the disease spread to seventh district in the State.
The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in poultry in Malda District, infecting seven of the 19 districts in West Bengal. Other districts infected by bird flu are Birbhum, Murshidabad, south Dinajpur, Burdwan, Nadia and Bankura.
At least 24 million people live in West Bengal’s seven affected districts. Officials worry that the virus could spread to humans and were collecting random blood samples from villagers.
Experts say the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form easily transmitted from person to person, leading to a pandemic.
However, the Centre has put to rest fears of humans being infected by bird flu.
Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss today said that people have been randomly tested in West Bengal’s areas hit by avian influenza and all have tested negative.
“Till date we have not got any confirmation for that (humans being infected by bird flu),” Ramadoss told reporters on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi, adding that “there is no reason to be concerned of human cases of bird flu.”
“We are all vigilant,” he said.
Meanwhile, Meghalaya and Bihar have banned import of poultry from West Bengal and were checking chickens for bird flu. Nepal has also banned the import of poultry products from India.
About 160,000 poultry birds have been culled so far, while over 100,000 birds have succumbed to the disease. (ANI)

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