As the West Bengal government machinery took more than 24 hours to start culling operations in just one gram panchayat area of Malda district, 340 km north of Kolkata, the bird flu panic spread in the state capital on Tuesday.
<b1>Bird flu was detected in Malda, famed for its mangoes, on Monday. But the state government's delayed response exposed how unprepared it was less than a year after Bengal was hit by the disease.
Satgheria village in Malda district, the epicentre of bird flu this time, had been waiting for culling teams to turn up since Tuesday morning. But the teams got into the act only by Tuesday evening.
Chickens in this village began to die early last week. Blood samples of chickens suspected to have bird flu, were sent to a central lab in Bhopal and results confirming the outbreak of the disease reached the government on Monday.
Malda district magistrate Sridhar Ghosh admitted there was a lack of coordination between various departments of the district administration. “The compensation money for the livestock to be culled did not reach the spot on time. Gathering entire teams for the culling operation was also tough,” Ghosh said.
In Kolkata, prices of chicken have dropped by Rs 10-15 per kg. Wholesalers and retailers are apprehensive about the coming marriage and picnic season. “I am expecting orders during the festive season. I do not know what will happen if the disease spreads like it did in January this year,” said Sujon Pahari, a retail chicken dealer in the city.
Manoranjan Naskar, a member of the West Bengal Poultry Association said, “Things would change drastically if the disease spreads to other districts.”
The Kolkata Corporation is keeping a close watch on the situation in the state capital. “The city is safe so far. We are however keeping a close watch on the markets and the entry and exit points of the city,” said mayor Bikas Bhattacharya.