The 50,000 ducklings were supposed to bring prosperity to this part of Tripura by helping with tourism and offering income generation opportunities to locals. But the first batch of 2,000 ducklings have had a bad start with 400 of them dying within days of their release into Neermahal water palace in Tripura’s Sepahijala district. The move was part of Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb’s ambitious tourism development plan.
Each of the 100 beneficiaries got 20 ducklings of a special breed from Bengaluru on March 2 this year. However, within 24 hours of the disbursal, nearly 400 ducklings died.
Bindurani Das of Poangbari village has just three left now. “I have been rearing ducks and chicken for nearly 20 years. We have reared only country breeds so far. None of the previous governments took initiative to give us ducks or chicken and support our livelihood. We thank the Chief Minister for this step. But the process needs to be fixed. Most of my ducks have died,” Das said.
She feels the ducks were immature at the time of distribution and should have got more time at animal rearing department-run farm. “They are so little that they can’t adapt to the open environment. I did everything the veterinary doctors instructed us. But the ducklings still died. I had 10 dead ducklings on the very next day,” she said, adding how a few were also eaten by dogs.
Rabindra Chandra Das of the Rudrasagar Matsyajeebi Unnayan Samabay Samiti said that while everyone was happy with the move, there are second thoughts because of the high mortality rate. “If bigger ducks are distributed, they might not die anymore,” he said, echoing Das. The Samiti is a state government monitored cooperative society that manages livelihood of 2,000 fishermen families in the vicinity of Rudrasagar Lake. The ducklings were distributed through the cooperative.
Meanwhile, with the Model Code of Conduct for the elections kicking in, all benefit disbursal have come to a halt. Parimal Das, Deputy Director of the Department of Animal Resources Development, said no more ducks would be distributed and the next lot will wait till the election process is over. He also sought to clarify that not more than 60 ducklings had died, though he couldn’t clarify why.
He also suggested that though the Department trained beneficiaries about how to rear these high yielding ducklings, many might have tried to rear them like traditional country-breed birds, resulting in choking and malnourishment. Each beneficiary was also given 10 kg of duck feed.
Papia Namasudra, whose mother was among the beneficiaries, said all Khaki Campbell ducklings died within a day while the white ducks survived. “We tried feeding the birds the feed, but they seem to develop dysentery. We tried using the regular broiler chicken feed and this is working out fine,” she said.
But veterinarians are unhappy. “Many beneficiaries are not using the duck feed in properly. Chicken are accustomed to eating dry feed. But if you apply it for ducks, they will choke and die. We found such cases in many of the duckling death cases here,” the official said without wanting to be named.
The scheme to distribute high-yielding ducklings originated from the Chief Minister’s visit to Rudrasagar Lake last August. Deb had said the ducklings would help boost natural beauty as well as the rural economy. The plan was to distribute two varieties – Khaki Campbell and white ducks — imported from Bengaluru. Khaki Campbell — a mix of the Indian Runner and Ruel Kagua — is a much preferred breed because of its eggs and meat.
“These birds will lay 250 eggs a year. It will provide additional support to the families with no investment. And if 50,000 white ducks swim in the waters of Rudrasagar Lake, it will be stunningly beautiful,” Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb had said.
The state government has taken steps to open up Neermahal to foreign tourists. Surrounded by over 2100 acre of waterbody around it, the lake palace was built by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur in 1939. The white and red palace has been rather iconic of the exquisite taste and heritage of Tripura’s 500-year-old Manikya dynasty rule.
Namasudra says the government should consider their losses and give us more birds to bring them at par with other beneficiaries. But ARDD Deputy Director Parimal Das said there is no instruction from the government about giving more ducklings. “I don’t know if we can give any more to those who already got their birds,” he said.
Meanwhile, Samiti secretary Parameshwar Das said the 50 large white ducks given to the cooperative society by the CM were doing fine. “If there was something wrong with the breed, these would be shown some problem as well. It must be the duck rearers who goofed up,” Das said.