Snapshots from the epicentre

Days after the outbreak of avian flu, the Central Poultry Department Organisation (CPDO) at Hesara­ghatta has been busy culling, cleaning and sanitising its farms. On the way to the CPDO, it isn’t difficult to see how the news of the spread of the flu has affected life around the government farm.

Chicken shops have no customers and cages and coops, usually crammed with birds, have only feathers as remnants.

A stall at Doddabilakere had only one live bird. The shop owner told Deccan Herald: “Blood samples had been taken from this particular bird and we were told not to sell it till 31st (of October).”

Sangeeta Hindu Military Hotel in the vicinity saw a high demand for mutton, pork and fish items. “There are no chickens or eggs on the menu, as of now,” said a worker at the hotel.

Visitors’ entry restricted

Almost all the gates of the CPDO were locked when Deccan Herald visited the farm. A board with the message: ‘Visitors’ entry strictly restricted. All visitors are requested to kindly co-operate’, hung from Gate 1 to 4. A huge sheet of blue tarpaulin covered Gate 5 and a guard at the main gate (2) and another at Gate 4 wore masks.

Activities going on at the CPDO were meant to be a secret. Two guards made frequent trips on their bikes around the facility to ensure nothing happening inside the farms is disturbed. The RH-3 building of the ‘Duck Unit’ inside Gate 2 had men dressed in white protection suits busy cleaning duck coops.

They were emptying the contents of the coops into gunny bags and tying them up. Next to the main gate was the ‘Turkey Unit’ and men in white suits seemed to be using a burner to sanitise the coops. ‘Officials in charge of the control and sanitation’ of the CPDO were at the site, but refused to talk or divulge details about what was going on inside the farm.

The aftermath

A staffer at the CPDO, who did not want to be named, told Deccan Herald that 3,000 emus weighing 55 kg and costing Rs 75,000 each; two ostriches of 120 kg and Rs 1,20,000 each; 16,000 ducks and 18,000 chickens had been culled at the farm.

Burial grounds

Noisome stench pervaded the area behind the facility. Towards the northern wall of the ‘Duck Unit’, adjacent to Hesaraghatta lake, were mounds of dug-up soil. A pack of dogs surrounded the mud heaps and another spot near the end of the facility close to Gate 5.

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