They aren’t James Bond clones nor do they have the quirkiness of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, but they are detectives nonetheless — alarmed by the spread of bird flu. Authorities in the bird flu-hit areas have hired youth to spy on farmers and their backyard farms for birds.
According to Veterinary officials, the vulnerability of backyard fowls to bird flu has been a major cause of concern for authorities in areas where culling is in progress.
The tendency of backyard poultry owners to hide their fowls and oppose culling has been a major cause of worry for the authorities. To overcome the problem, the government has engaged sleuths to provide information about houses with backyard poultry in bird flu-hit areas.
“Taking the help of local youths who are ready to become detectives for a social cause seems to do,” Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner Prateek Hajela told HT. “Their inputs help us locate the houses with backyard poultry and take necessary action. We are now into the sanitization part of the operation.”
In the Kharguli area of the city, the district administration has engaged 18 youth to identify the houses of people rearing poultry in their backyard. “We found out from these bird-watching detectives that 397 houses have been rearing chickens and ducks within the danger zone,” an official said.
Some 16.5 lakh people are involved directly and indirectly in poultry farming and trade in Assam which account for an annual business of Rs 913 crore. A fraction of this trade is attributed to ‘backyard poultry’ farmers.
Resistance from backyard poultry farmers, officials said, has been a major factors behind the slow pace of culling.
“Protests and barricades have had some slackening effect on our operations,” admitted Animal Husbandry and Veterinary director Aswini Kataky. “We have had a tough time to persuade even the educated lot engaged in backyard poultry farming.”
Till Sunday, 4,06,573 fowls have been culled and over 1.55 lakh eggs and 1.25 lakh farm feeds were also destroyed.