Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bird Flue Update: CPM machinery stood in the way

  1. In many villages, people led by ruling party leaders resisted culling operations. Margram Panchayat, for instance, is under the control of the Congress. The CPM backed popular sentiment of the villagers hoping to cash in during the ensuing panchayat polls in May-June. Sanjiv Barman, the zonal committee secretary of Rampurhat Block II said: “If we do not come to their support at this critical juncture they will not support us in the ballot box. We are therefore raising the issue of inadequate compensation.” Result: many villagers refused to give up the birds for culling.
  2. Leaders complained of lack of an awareness campaign before culling operations began. Often, culling teams went to villages at odd hours without any prior information and villagers were not prepared to hand over the birds. “No one told us about the disease and one morning, they came and demanded my poultry. The birds were out. I asked them to come another day. I kept waiting with my poultry but no one turned up,” said Sheikh Amzad of Buropithtola in Margram.
  3. In some places like Nalhati, culling teams were beaten up. A day after culling operations began, local CPM members took out rallies in a number of villages in Margram, Nalhati and Mayureshwar areas, demanding better compensation for affected farmers.
  4. In Parulia village, when the team reached on January 16, about 100 people, led by Ananda Bagdi, the local CPM Panchayat Pradhan, resisted the culling. They had two demands: culling teams had to take their permission before entering the village and an upward revision of the compensation. The culling teams backed off.
  5. There was no effort on the part of CPM leaders to use their fabled party network to spread awareness about the dangers of the virus and co-operate with authorities.
  6. CPM state secretary Biman Bose issued an alert yesterday — a week after the outbreak.* As the bird flu virus spread, the Ministers were distracted by the CPM party congress in Kolkata. Both the ARD and the Health Ministries are held by the CPM. It was only on January 20, five days after official announcement of the outbreak, that Anisur Rehman, state ARD minister, visited Birbhum and Margram.
  7. Surya Kant Mishra, state health minister, visited Bolpur in Birbhum on January 22. No other minister visited Ground Zero.


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