Bird flu: Buddha letter to Pawar seeking Rs 150cr compensation

Written by Economy Bureau | Kolkata, Jan 28 | Updated: Jan 29 2008, 06:08am hrs
Over 500,000 families with backyard poultry have been affected by the severe outbreak of avian influenza and face an economic loss of Rs 150 crore, Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has told Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Bhattacharjee, in a letter sent to Pawar on Monday, has said the funds are required to compensate each of the affected families with a cash payment of Rs 500 and rehabilitate them by finding alternative sources of income such as rearing goats and pigs.

While extensive culling operations are on to destroy all chicken, villagers have also been told not to breed chicken afresh for at least another three months. This will cut off their income stream from hens and ducks for at least a year.

"Besides, after the outbreak is completely checked, and fresh backyard poultry rearing assumes in the affected areas, Government of India may consider supplying ingredients of poultry feed at subsidized rates," Bhattacharjee has said in his letter, citing the example of Maharashtra when bird flu had affected that state a few years ago.

The chief minister also told animal resources development minister Anisur Rahaman to see if further steps can be taken to prevent the virus from spreading.

Rahaman said he had browsed the internet and learnt that avian flu has affected 15 countries.

"The good news is that our people have not been affected by the flu so far," Rahaman said.

"The chief minister has told me to take further steps regarding prevention, but I will have to consult Delhi and find out what these steps are," Rahaman said.

On Monday, Rahaman's department also told Kolkata Police not to allow the entry of poultry and poultry products from any area barring 14 registered poultry farms, since bird flu has reached Budge Budge, 20km south west of the city.

Rahaman claimed that the government has not received any reports today of fresh areas being affected by bird flu.

The government said 22 lakh birds had been culled by Monday across 13 districts, against an estimated population of 500 lakh chickens for the state.

The government aims to cull a total of 25 lakh and halt the process if the virus does not spread. The minister said it was heartening to note that very few bird deaths from the virus had been reported on Monday.