Shivpuri town, about 330km from Bhopal, is witnessing a culling operation to rid the town of its feral pig population.
Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, a Hyderabad-based marksman, has shot dead almost 5,000 feral pigs on orders of the municipal authorities. Khan has signed a contract with the municipality to shoot pigs for which he gets Rs 240 per animal. The residents of the town, where pigs have become a health hazard and were a top issue in the previous assembly elections, don’t seem to be complaining.
Dr Rajendra Gupta, a local medical practitioner had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) at the Gwalior bench of MP High Court. The court in April this year ordered the municipality to get rid of pigs, failing which they (pigs) should be destroyed. "As per estimates there are 20,000 feral pigs in Shivpuri town," says chief municipal officer (CMO) Kamlesh Sharma.
Khan has been on this job since September 26. On September 30, Khan shot dead a mind-boggling 1,084 pigs in one night. Municipal authorities have created a mass grave for the pigs at Barodi, outside the town, where dead pigs are being put in a pit.
"Pigs have been identified as a source of swine flu, leading to a condition that causes cysts in the brain. They thrive in filth which is a source of many diseases by itself," says Dr Rajendra Gupta, on whose PIL the Gwalior bench of the HC had given the ruling.
"People are supportive. They ask me to visit their localities to shoot pigs. A priest called me to shoot pigs in a temple, where they were snatching 'prasad' from of devotees," says Khan. What does he have to say to people who say killing is wrong? "This is the most peaceful way of going about the problem," adds Khan, who is also training forest department staff of five states in tranquillising wild animals.
The administration's approach to the issue is expectedly not being hailed by animal rights activists.
"Ecological balance cannot be restored through the barrel of a gun. The shooters could accidentally kill children, other people, or wildlife. Pigs who shot may suffer being shot several times, and some may escape to die slowly from blood loss, gangrene, starvation or dehydration," said CEO, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Poorva Joshipura in a statement. She added that pigs would abound as long as people want to eat them and shooting them wasn’t a solution.