The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Play on bird flu takes wing
- Manipur vet department falls back on entertainment to raise awareness

Imphal, Feb. 11: In an inspired move, Manipur is using the medium of Shumang Lila (courtyard plays) to spread awareness about bird flu.

The state has yet to recover from last year’s encounter with bird flu and the recent outbreak in West Bengal has added to its worries.

The veterinary department’s new awareness tool is the play Aruba Echel, revolving around a veterinary doctor working in a village in the interiors of Manipur. Scripted by Manaobi M.M. and directed by Birjit Ngangaomba, Aruba Echel is the result of collaboration between the veterinary department and the Peace Maker Artistes’ Association.

Staged for the first time this week, the play will soon travel across the state.

“We are perennially under threat from bird flu since we host a large number of migratory birds and smuggling of poultry from Myanmar continues,” the director of the department, Th. Dorendro Singh, said.

On an average, 750 heads of cattle and poultry are smuggled into Manipur every month through the 352-km Indo-Myanmar border. Manipur has an estimated poultry population of nearly 30 lakh.

Apart from raising awareness about bird flu, Aruba Echel highlights the state’s “gun culture” and how people are suffering because of militancy.

Another message to the villagers is to associate themselves with “good people”.

“We decided not to dwell much on bird flu. Our effort will go in vain if the audience is bored. So we decided to entertain the audience, highlight how poultry and livestock can generate income and how militancy has destroyed lives,” Dorendra said.

The official said a play could not teach an audience all about a disease and how to tackle it. “Ours is just a humble attempt to arouse interest in preventive measures among poultry farmers.”

The play will also be competing in this year’s Shumang Lila festival at the Iboyaima Shumang Lila auditorium in Imphal.

As many as 11 all-male groups and 19 women’s groups are competing in the festival.

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