| People enjoy the lunch organised by Siliguri Poultry Farmers' Association. A Telegraph picture
Siliguri, Feb. 22: From the roadside fruit vendor to the home guard ' everyone sat down together to have a hearty treat of chicken, rice and egg. And all for the bird flu scare!
In an effort to dispel the fear of consuming contaminated poultry products ever since bird flu was detected among chicken in Maharashtra last Saturday, Siliguri Poultry Farmers' Association (SPFA) today organised a mid-day meal here. Around 1,200 people were treated to a sumptuous meal of chicken, rice and egg.
The organisers, who spent Rs 40,000 for the feast, hope that the residents of the town will now feel encouraged to buy poultry products just like before. The only return they hope from this investment is successful generation of awareness about the safety of consuming chicken and eggs.
'We want the people of the town to get over their apprehension of falling sick after eating chicken with bird flu. That is why we organised the feast,' said Ratan Paul, the vice president of the SPFA. The association had also invited experts to the venue who explained the actual situation to those present.
In north Bengal, there are around 25,000 chicken farms through which over 50,000 people earn their living. There has been a 25 to 30-per cent drop in the sale of chicken following the constant media report about the recent detection of bird-flu in Navapur village, said Paul. Prices have also gone down from Rs 48 to Rs 42 per kg in the local market, he said.
Paul added that during the wedding season, the price of chicken usually shoots up. 'But this time, thanks to the death of over 1,00,000 chicken in Maharashtra last week, there has been a fall in the demand,' he said.
Tanmoy Saha, the secretary of the SPFA, said the sudden drop in sale of chicken in the defence sector and among residents of the hills and Sikkim has added to their worry.
Bishnu Dutta, the technical adviser to Samrat Feed Meal of Siliguri, refused to accept media reports that the chicken died of bird flu since the Bhopal Animal Diseases Laboratory has not yet issued any final confirmatory report on it. 'So there is no point of giving up eating chicken now,' he said.
Dutta added the possibility of the virus spreading in India was low. 'It is also hard to believe that 1,00,000 chicken died of this infection. It could have been ailments like, Ranikhet or Gumboro, which have similar symptoms as bird flu,' Dutta said.