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Roomy home, diet of seized spud for pigs

A new pen and a diet of carbs await pigs that would be captured to pre-empt an outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis in Calcutta, though the city is 360km away from the flash zone of the disease.

The carbohydrate fare would come from truckloads of potatoes that the government had seized and kept at Milan Mela as part of its controversial crackdown to curb “export” of the tuber to other states. “Sacks full of potatoes are currently rotting in rain at the fair ground. These are going to be pig food,” said an official of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

A part of the CMC slaughterhouse on Gobinda Khatik Road in Tangra will be turned into sty for the new arrivals.

“Pigs will be kept at an open yard of the Tangra slaughterhouse,” said Atin Ghosh, the mayoral council (health).

The CMC had captured over 240 pigs over the past fortnight and kept them at an open-air enclosure off Basanti Highway after stowing the animals in a garbage truck for a few days initially. “As more and more pigs were being caught, the 10-cottah plot at Bantala near Dhapa has become overcrowded. Hence the need for a new home,” the official said.

The CMC had installed electric lights and fans, a series of mangers and mosquito nets covering the entire area. “The net was necessary to prevent mosquitoes from biting the pigs and carrying the Japanese Encephalitis virus to humans. An employee has been assigned to provide food to the animals,” the official said.

The plot has been heavily fenced to stop the pigs from escaping into villages off the Basanti Highway.

According to CMC officials, the city has about 3,000 pigs, many of which are unaccounted for.

The space at Tangra is nearly twice the size of the one at Bantala. “This is a vacant and enclosed place, suited for our purpose. We will have to put lights and fans and cover the yard with mosquito nets. Since this is within the city, we have to be more careful,” an official said.

Their stay taken care of, the animals can now expect their choicest food. “In fact, there was a mutiny of sorts at Bantala as the pigs penned there refused to eat the ration supplied by the animal resource department. They put the CMC in a spot. Officials had to contact hotels off the Bypass and get a supply of leftovers. They are happy with crumbs!” a source said.

From crumbs to nutritious spud, the pigs can expect a delectable dietary change very soon. Trucks carrying produce from this year’s bumper potato harvest in the state had been seized in East Midnapore, West Midnapore and Bankura after the government decided to ban “export” of the tuber to other states in a knee-jerk reaction to prices shooting up last week.

The government wants potatoes to be sold at Rs 14 a kilo in the state, at a time the vegetable is fetching much more than that in other states.

“The potatoes are rotting in heat and moisture. The rotten potatoes are being separated from the good ones. They spoilt spuds will be transported to Bantala for the pigs,” a CMC official said.