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Quarantined pigs to go ‘home’, hunt on hold

Operation Pig has been put on hold and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will go the whole hog to return the captured animals to their “rightful” owners.

A month after it started capturing pigs to quarantine them in the wake of a Japanese Encephalitis outbreak in north Bengal, the CMC has aborted the operation because it doesn’t have the required space and logistics to tend to the animals in captivity.

Till Thursday, the civic body had 258 pigs in its custody.

Looking after them, feeding them and finding more space to accommodate the new catches had been worrying the civic bosses for quite some time. So, they decided to return the animals to their owners.

CMC sources said the process of returning the pigs to their rightful owners could prove more cumbersome than capturing them.

“How will we identify the owner of, say, Pig X? Apart from names of the people who handed their animals and the receipts given by the CMC, there is no other way of identifying an owner. There is no way we can say for sure that animal X belongs to owner Y. We had jotted down the approximate weight of an animal just by looking at them after they were captured. It was guesswork in the absence of a weighing machine,” said a senior official of the CMC.

He said they would try to “return a pig of similar weight” to the owner.

If the owners refuse to take “some other pig”, the CMC has its task cut out.

Sources said the pigs would be handed over from the Bantala address where the animals have been kept.

Owners would be duly informed and they “should come to Bantala on assigned dates to take back their pigs”, a source said. “The dates haven’t been fixed yet.”

“If any pig does not find a claimant, it will be handed over to people rearing pigs in the villages,” said an official.

The CMC built a temporary shelter spread over a 10-cottah plot off the Basanti Highway to keep the animals. Lights, fans had to be installed to keep the pigs safe and secure.

Besides, the CMC covered the entire area with nets to prevent any mosquito from biting the animals and carrying the Japanese Encephalitis virus to humans, though the city hasn’t reported any of its citizens catching the disease this season.

“We tested the captured pigs and the results showed that none of them are carrying the Japanese Encephalitis virus,” said Atin Ghosh, the mayoral council, health.

The civic body had to order leftover food from hotels near the Bypass to feed the pigs because the animals refused to eat the ration provided by the animal resource department.

The CMC spends about Rs 20,000 every day on electricity, food and others to tend the pigs.

“The space at Bantala was not enough to keep so many pigs. Though a location at Tangra was selected for a second pigsty, that had some problems. There was no other space to keep newly-captured pigs. Given the constraints, we decided to return the pigs,” said an official.

“For the moment, we have stopped the drive to capture pigs. I cannot say whether it will resume. At the same time, I am not saying it will not resume,” said the official, indicating the indecision in the CMC.