|Kind gesture: Arjun Singh feeds sparrows at his home in Rohtas.
Picture by Sanjay Choudhary
A chance encounter with an ailing sparrow has spurred a farmer in Rohtas to become the champion of the state bird. The birds have also reportedly brought good luck to their benefactor and provided him solace in loneliness.
His love for the sparrows has earned him the name “Birdman of Rohtas”.
“Around five years ago, I found an infant sparrow in the aangan (courtyard) of my house. It was injured and I took it in. I provided it food and treatment and it made a nest in one corner of my house,” said Arjun Singh, 47, the benevolent farmer.
A resident of Merari village, about 14km north of Rohtas district headquarters Sasaram, Singh added: “Soon, other sparrows joined Raja (the first sparrow whom he rescued).”
Around 1,000 sparrows have made nests in Singh’s home, spread over three cottahs.
The farmer, who has a postgraduate degree in chemistry from DBS College in Kanpur, believes that the birds have brought him good luck and happiness. “Ever since the birds started nesting in my house, my economic condition has improved drastically,” he said.
His belief may have sprouted from coincidence but it is not too far off the mark. According to World Wildlife Fund, India, “Sparrows are example of commensalisms as these are found in human-inhabited areas. Their abundance indicates the health of habitat on which they depend.”
The birds have also helped uplift Singh’s emotional status.
“After the death of my wife, Usha Rani, in 2005, I was very depressed and had a solitary life. My daughter was then studying at a school in Sasaram,” added Singh.
The farmer spends around four quintals of paddy and wheat every year to feed his winged friends. The birds have to be fed between April and October. “In November, the harvesting of paddy begins, there is enough food for the birds outside,” he said.
Administrative officials, too, have taken an interest in Singh’s project. “I have heard about him (Singh),” said Rohtas divisional forest officer Amit Kumar over phone.
Taking care of the birds is not always an easy job for Singh, though. “I have to take extra precaution to keep snakes, animals and other birds away from my house,” he said, adding that even children sometimes hurt the birds or destroy their eggs.
The birds are not endangered yet but their numbers have declined in recent years. According to the World Wildlife Fund, India, website, though the sparrow (Passer domesticus indicus) “is abundant in the areas of its occurrence, in recent years it has seen a sharp decline with fewer sightings in urban areas.
Last year, the Delhi government declared the sparrow a state bird and took steps for its protection. In May this year, the Bihar cabinet also passed the proposal to replace Indian roller with sparrow as the state bird. A formal notification in this regard is yet to be published. Singh is hopeful that the Bihar government will also initiate measures to protect his winged friends.