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Promise in vain, no culling team at doorstep
- Officials clueless about Tamiflu

Bonta, (Birbhum), Jan. 20: In village after village of Birbhum, there was no sign of teams knocking at doors for birds to be culled.

Animal resource development minister Anisur Rahman had promised the door-to-door visits yesterday to ensure villagers did not come in contact with infected birds while carrying them to the culling centres.

Standing yards away from a heap of feathers, Bajley Ahmed of Pahari village said: “We’ve been feasting on chickens for the past few days. It makes no sense to give away a full-grown chicken that would have fetched us Rs 75 to 80 for a compensation of only Rs 40.”

In some villages, people complained that they had not been provided with the anti-viral medicine, Tamiflu, despite the minister’s instructions for “immediate distribution”.

“Neither have we received any Tamiflu capsule nor have our villages been disinfected,” said Mohammed Jahir Hussain of Baganpara in the worst-hit Margram.

“There are still ducks swimming in the ponds. Villagers have not been told to keep their poultry in isolation,” said Hussain.

The district administration said it had not received enough Tamiflu for door-to-door distribution. “We still don’t know how the anti-virals are going to be distributed. Almost 300 field staff are working and they need a tablet each everyday. Besides, there are health workers,” said Birbhum chief medical officer Sunil Kumar Bhowmik.

Culling teams did not work in Nalhati because five members of one of the groups were beaten up last evening by residents who were angry that their poultry was being culled.

A dozen residents of Sheura village, under Nalhati municipality, were arrested today.

“After the arrests, many villagers released their birds in the open,” said Yafat Sheikh, a resident.

Isolation wards were opened at hospitals in Bolpur, Suri and Nalhati. Two had been opened earlier — at a Rampurhat hospital and a health centre in Basoa village.

Union minister of state for health Panabaka Lakshmi, who arrived in Bolpur last evening, met health department officials today.

“Discussions are on to ensure that the compensation amount is increased,” Lakshmi said. The government is offering Rs 40 for each country chicken and duck and Rs 30 for broiler chickens.

An expert from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Delhi, said the prevailing climate in Bengal and free mixing of chickens reared in backyards was ideal for the rapid spread of the bird flu virus. “Chickens and ducks here have been moving from one backyard to another carrying the virus with them. The weather, too, is ideal for the growth of the virus.”

Teams from the National Institute of Virology in Pune and the emergency medical relief wing under the Union health ministry visited Birbhum and Murshidabad and held meetings with health and animal resource officials.

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