The pigsty being built at Bantala; (above) civic officials and policemen at RG Kar hospital where they went looking for pigs on Thursday. Pictures by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Operation Pig, Day 6:
Drive entered five state-run hospitals in the city
Yielded 22 catches near RG Kar; others scored a blank
Quarantined animals got a new sty off Dhapa
Pigs were tagged and owners’ names recorded to remove confusion over ownership
Civic officials caught 22 pigs from the vicinity of RG Kar hospital on Thursday morning in a move to keep the animals known as reservoirs of the Japanese Encephalitis virus away from medical institutions where thousands of patients are treated every day.
Identical drives at SSKM, Shambhu Nath Pandit Hospital, NRS hospital and Bangur Institute of Neurosciences drew a blank, although senior doctors in the city welcomed the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) action.
Thursday’s catch took the total count of captured pigs to 66, of which 52 caught from across the city had been quarantined in a garbage truck stationed near the Dhapa waste hill.
Critical care expert Subrata Maitra said pigs should be kept away from hospital areas because “they make a place filthy” besides being carriers of the Japanese Encephalitis virus, an outbreak of which has been wreaking havoc in north Bengal.
“It is best to remove them from the vicinity of hospitals, whose surroundings should be clean. The Japanese encephalitis outbreak has not reached Calcutta but the need is to immediately catch and quarantine the pigs as a preventive measure,” said Maitra, the chairman of the state’s expert committee on health.
Microbiologists seconded Maitra’s opinion. “Pigs are carriers of protozoa and worms that can contaminate the food and water of patients at hospitals. Parasitic diseases can spread if the animals are allowed to roam close to hospitals,” said Satadal Das, the president of the Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists.
Teams of pig-catchers assisted by Calcutta police personnel fanned out in the morning across the five hospitals.
No pigs were found on the RG Kar hospital campus but many were spotted in a narrow canal in the adjacent Tallah area. “They were caught and herded into trucks. The pigs in the neighbourhood offered more resistance than the owners, who queued up to get their names registered. Some of the animals were unclaimed,” an official said.
The officials advised members of the Group D staff at RG Kar hospital to refrain from keeping pigs on the hospital premises and report to the authorities if they see one straying from neighbouring areas.
The drive got a semblance of order after five days as officials on Thursday started to tag the captured pigs with unique identification codes that would help the civic administration pay compensation to the rightful owner. The tagging was done on the basis of the animal’s weight. The pigs were caught and weighed before being sent to quarantine.
Officials said the process would prevent a rerun of the confusion prevailing till Wednesday. The owners whose names had been recorded feared that they might end up getting less compensation since the officials were doing guesswork to identify the animals, telling their weight by simply looking at them.
If the owners had something to smile about, the captured pigs too looked happy as they were herded into an enclosed area with mangers — a place much better than the squalor they lived in.
The animals were living in the dump container of a garbage truck of the CMC since Day One of the operation that began from the New Market area.
The airy and spacious makeshift pigsty near Bantala, off the Basanti highway, is made of bamboo.
The compound has a brick wall on one side and a thick bamboo fencing on the other three. “The fence has no gaps through which pigs, even the smaller ones, could escape,” an official supervising the work said.