January 23, 2017 5:24:04 am
THREE members of a family wearing masks at their home in Sudha Kunj Society of Memnagar are angry with the way Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) handled the bird flu threat in their area.
Their society is separated from the area — an open ground — where the culled birds were buried following spread of avian influenza by a six-feet road. On this ground, surrounded by a four-foot high wall, Sarva Dharma Rakshak Seva Trust runs a bird shelter where 200-250 guinea fowls were brought from Vastral area after a trucker dumped them on January 2 .
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Ten days before this ground was sealed, on January 12, nearly 1,500 birds had been culled at Hathijan on Ahmedabad’s outskirts on confirming the bird flu infection. The residents are angry that it took so long to detect the H5N1 virus in their area and till then infected birds were surreptitiously culled and buried on this ground.
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Two spots still show freshly dug earth sprayed with white powder, said to be pesticide, between the tall trees, from a locked iron gate. The AMC has put up posters on the wall barring the area with a warning that it was bird flu infected . There still remains portions of the tented enclosures that were being used to cure injured birds during the kite festival.
The open ground is surrounded by high-rise buildings and row houses, one sharing a wall with this premises. There is a municipal park right across the road on the opposite side where entry is restricted now. The densely populated area also has a private school.
On the midnight of January 12, the animal husbandry department along with AMC teams, support from local police, culled 160 birds and buried them in this ground. To the residents’ horror, again on January 18, around midnight another 64 birds, found in a school near this ground, were culled and buried.
Between the culling of birds in Hathijan and Memnagar, the state was hosting the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS).
“Are we left to the mercy of God? The AMC’s response shows they are not serious. No rules are being followed nor care taken. Where is the ban on gatherings when the municipal party plot across the road has been holding wedding functions, the recent one held Thursday night only,” said Nilaben Mehta of Sudha Kunj society, speaking to The Indian Express on Friday.
Nilaben’s family member Munjal Mehta said, “In the first three days, fogging was done thrice or even four times a day and now hardly once a day. When the area is sealed for a month that means the virus is active till that time. Then how can the AMC authorities be so casual about our lives. Stray dogs are freely roaming in and out of the ground.”
The residents have filed two petitions in the Gujarat High Court questioning the authorities’ attitude. “Around midnight on January 12 when I first spotted a lot of activity, with JCB machines and police vehicles here, I enquired what was going on. But without revealing anything, the police asked me to go away. Being a resident of this area and hardly 20 metre away from the spot, I thought I have all rights to ask and be informed about the situation. These things cannot be conducted in such a secretive manner,” said Shalin Zariwala, a resident of Sudha Kunj Society.
Another resident Ashish Parikh said, “When once the premises is sealed on January 12 and movement of any person or bird is restricted, how can the AMC authorities open it on January 18 and bury 64 more birds at the same spot?”
The AMC’s attempts to dispose of the bird carcass in the prohibited zone in dead of the night raised the local’s hackles. Some of the residents objected to JCBs entering the ground to bury the carcasses and tried to stop them.
A police vehicle has been stationed outside the ground to check nobody enters it as well as the public park. However, when The Indian Express visited the site, there was only a head constable guarding the spot. “The other policemen have gone for lunch. I have been directed not to let anybody inside the ground and park,” said head constable Pankajbhai Patni.
On the allegations raised by Memnagar residents against AMC’s action plan AMC health officer Dr Bhavin Solanki said, “The culling operations were carried out a little secretively to avoid panic among the residents. The second burying of birds was not done at the same spot where earlier 160 birds were buried, but in the same premises as per the GoI guidelines.”
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