For Ramesh Jain, Makar Sankranti is not about the thrilling flight of colourful kites, but the truncated flight of hundreds of birds, which get caught in manjhas (crushed glass-coated strings).
For the past three years, the Bhuleshwar resident has been saving the lives of injured birds by organising day-long medical camps in south Mumbai.
This year, Jain has arranged for 15 doctors from the Parel Veterinary Hospital to run camps in Chira Bazar, Zaveri Bazar and the diamond market at Opera House on January 14.
“These are dense residential areas where thousands of revellers fly kites on terraces, injuring a high number of birds,” said Jain, 57, who began this year’s awareness campaign on Friday night by putting up banners in those neighbourhoods.
The banners display a helpline number for people to report injured birds, and encourage kite flying on open grounds, where there are fewer trees in which strings can get entangled.
“Pigeons are simple-minded and never change their daily flight routes, so they end up flying into the sharp kite strings,” said Jain, who had made a short film last year to spread awareness about the issue. “The number of bird injuries has been rising every year.”
Jain, a cloth trader by profession, carries out his animal rescue work through the Jain Adult Group, a charitable community organisation of which he is a member. With the help of his family and other volunteers, he had rescued 110 birds last year, of which nearly 30 can never fly again. These birds are sent to a special bird enclosure and hospital in the Byculla Jain Mandir, where they receive daily care and medication.
“Last year, some youth came and tore their kites before us, pledging not to fly them on terraces anymore,” said Jain.