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Two-day hiatus in pig hunt

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation on Monday suspended its pig hunt for two days because its conservancy workers would be engaged elsewhere during the festival break.

The interval led some to question whether Japanese encephalitis was the reason for 52 pigs being seized since Saturday and confined to a garbage carrier parked in the CMC garage on Dhapa Road, just behind Silver Spring on the Bypass.

“If Japanese encephalitis were the reason, there wouldn’t have been a two-day break in the campaign,” said a doctor specialising in public health. “The scare was misplaced anyway.”

North Bengal’s encephalitis zone, where 120 people are reported to have died of the disease since January, is some 360km from Calcutta. “The distance from the affected belt and the fact that there is no immediate threat to the city from encephalitis give us reason to believe that pigs needn’t be quarantined,” the doctor said.

Atin Ghosh, a member of the mayoral council, said the outbreak in north Bengal had given the civic body an opportunity to bar unorganised pig-rearing within the city.

“We had been thinking about how to rid the city of cow sheds and pigsties, based on complaints about unhygienic surroundings because of their presence. The link between pigs and Japanese encephalitis gives us the opportunity to carry out the plan,” Ghosh said.

The raids against pigsties and khatals won’t end even after the outbreak in north Bengal is controlled. “Whenever we have information about pigs being reared within the city, we will try to stop it.”

Ghosh also confirmed what experts in public health have said: that there is no immediate threat to Calcutta from Japanese encephalitis.

Cowsheds within city limits were declared illegal early in the Nineties but this is the first instance of the civic authorities targeting pigsties. “They are not only an eyesore and unhygienic but also a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” an official said.

Sources said the pigs seized by the CMC’s conservancy wing would remain in the garbage carrier until an enclosure was built for them at the Dhapa dumping ground. Metro had highlighted on Monday the CMC’s predicament about what to do with the pigs seized during raids over two days.

Animal rights activists have accused the civic body of being cruel towards the seized pigs. Three animals died allegedly because of overcrowding.

Susmita Roy of Love and Care for Animals said her NGO and two other organisations had approached the CMC on Monday for permission to visit Dhapa and see how the animals are being kept. “I fear that the animals may be dumped there with their limbs tied. Rats and crows will nibble on them and that will be a painful death. I hope the CMC has at least untied them,” Roy said.

The NGOs were asked to visit the civic headquarters on Wednesday for permission to visit Dhapa.

The CMC said that the seized animals were being adequately taken care of. “Our workers are giving them pig feed and pouring water on the floor of the garbage carrier at regular intervals to keep them cool,” an official said.

Monday didn’t see any raid and there won’t be any on Tuesday either. The campaign will resume on Wednesday.

Public health officials said there wouldn’t have been a two-day break if the civic body feared an encephalitis outbreak in the city. “If pigs are a threat, there is no logic in keeping the drive on hold for two days. Viruses don’t take a festival break,” a source said.