Bird Flu nearing Kolkata; sale of poultry banned at Salt Lake

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Kolkata, Jan 28 (UNI) With the dreaded bird flu spreading close to Kolkata, authorities today clamped a ban on the sale of poultry products at Bidhan Nagar on the fringe of the city even, as more than two million birds had been killed in the affected areas.

While about 70 per cent areas of the state had already been afflicted by the disease, the state government said a total of 2.5 million birds would be culled and the target would be reached in the next two days.

Official sources said the Bidhan Nagar Municipal authorities put a ban on the sale of chickens and all other poultry products in all the 14 markets under its jurisdiction as a preventive measure. The order would be effective for a week from tomorrow.

Though the city had so far remained unaffected by bird flu, the measure was taken following the outbreak of the disease in two blocks of the neighbouring Hooghly and Howrah districts, only 20 to 40 km away.

Animal Resources Minister Anisur Rahman, however, said there was no fresh report of H5N1 virus invading new areas and the culling operation was going on in full swing.

Already 80 per cent of the targetted 2.5 million birds has been culled, Mr Rahman said, adding the rest will be completed in the next two days.

Out of the total 19 districts of the state, 13 had already been affected by bird flu triggering economic crisis for an estimated 500,000 people, who used to depend on backyard poultry farming for livelihood.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wrote to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, seeking a Central assistance of at least Rs 50 crore towards the interim relief and rehabilitation of the affected people.

Mr Rahaman said the state government at present was giving an interim relief of Rs 500 to each of the affected people, while there was an immediate need for economic rehabilitation of them.

''The Chief Minister has pointed out in his letter that the total amount for this prupose would be around Rs 100 crore, and the Centre should bear at least 50 per cent of it,'' he added.

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