500 catfish farms destroyed

Officials of the Revenue Department, with the help of police, destroyed about 500 catfish farms that were operating illegally at Razak Palya in Bagalur, near Yelahanka on Saturday.

The drive was also conducted in the neighbouring areas of Mastansab Palya and Budensab Palya. More than 500 policemen and 20 earthmovers were used in the operation.

Most of the people in these areas rely on catfish farming for their livelihood. There are about 2,000 catfish farms in the area. “The loss due to police action is between Rs 2 crore and Rs 4 crore,” said a breeder Syed Ajmal. He has lost three fish ponds in the operation.
Another breeder Rafik Ahmed, who lost ten farms, said: “the police came without any notice or warning and started charging the men with lathis.”

The police, however, claimed they had resorted to mild caning to disperse the crowd gathered to protect the farms. A case between the catfish breeders and the State government and other parties over the legality of these farms is in the court.

The major bone of contention is the species of the fish that is being allegedly reared by the breeders. Revenue Department (Bangalore-North) Additional Commissioner K Ranganath, who led the raid, said repeated warnings had been given to the people to stop illegal breeding of African catfish that has been banned by the central government. “The land can be used only for agricultural purpose and people can’t rear fish in these lands,” he explained.

The breeders, allege that they are breeding Hayath variety of catfish and not the banned African catfish. According to Hussain Mueen Farooq, the lawyer defending the catfish breeders, the High Court order of 2011 stated it needs to be decided by a trial court. The court had directed the authorites to conduct a survey and compile a report based on lab results to decide the matter.

Bird menace

Besides the government, the Yelahanka Air Force base, which is in the close vicinity, too has been opposing the operation of these farms. There have been a number of complaints from the airbase about a large number of birds in the area flying due to the catfish farms. The catfish and the fish feed comprising of chicken and other flesh attract a large number of birds to the area posing threat to flights, officials from the airbase say.

“The breeders requested some time to sell the fish in the ponds. We have given them three-days’ time to clear the ponds. If not, we will close down all the ponds” said Ranganath. 

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