On 2nd April, residential activists of Vasai-Virar and Andheri West rose complaints against the government ban on feeding birds and won over the removal of these notice boards, to continue bird feeding.
Over the past months, the government had placed boards at areas where pigeons were fed since years, with warnings against feeding pigeons. The offence to do so would cost a fine of Rs. 500. This warning was opposed by many animal lover and activists. Along with the Animal Welfare Board of India and other NGOs, activists forced the removal of the ban as it also violates article 51G of the constitution of India.
Say Yes to Bird Feeding
In order to avoid diseases like histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis which can be transmitted to human from contact of bird faeces, Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) had set up notice boards across Pigeon feeding areas, since last five months. These boards were with warnings that read ‘bird feeding is an offence and anyone found feeding the pigeons would be fined Rs.500’. Security guards were appointed to monitor and charge those who fed these birds.
However, localities have been feeding Pigeons in these areas for years. Animal lovers and activists were against the notice put up by the VVMPC. Shri. Mitesh Jain, Honorary Dist. Animal Welfare Officer, took this up and reported the matter to the Animal Welfare Board of India. “There are places where pigeons were being fed since years. It’s heartbreaking to see the pigeons wait for food, but no one to feed them as they fear the municipality would fine them for the same. The birds are starving. Some other alternative needs to be found instead of this cruel outright, complete ban on feeding,” Mitesh Jain wrote in his letter to the AWBI.
The matter was then discussed with the Secretary of the AWBI, Neelam Balaji and Mr Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Post which, on 2nd April, a letter was issued to the commissioner, seeking an explanation of the warnings against Pigeon feeding. Mitesh Jain, himself took the letter to the Commissioner’s office and validated the same. The animal activist’s request was granted and the notice boards were thereafter taken down. Mitesh Jain himself supervised the removal of the boards and began the tradition of feeding the Pigeons once again. “The hungry birds have a lot to be happy now, as these feathered friends have been saved from starvation in the hot summers,” Mitesh said.
Animal Activists against BMC
A similar incident took place in Andheri West, wherein across the area there were notices installed by the Solid West Management department of the BMC, stating ‘no feeding animals’, and that they are provisions made under the BMC Act. One such signboard was placed by the K-West ward at the Balasaheb Deoras Marg in Andheri West that read ‘feeding animals and birds like pigeons, cats, dogs, horses and cows was prohibited, and an offence that could attract fines up to Rs 500 under the Greater Mumbai Cleanliness and Sanitation Bye-laws’, reports Mid-day.
On noticing the signboards, Madhu Chanda, an animal lover informed other community members and with the help of People for Animals NGO, raised a complaint. Post the complaint, on Monday, the signboard was removed by the K-West ward.
Article 51-A (g) deals with Fundamental Duties of the citizens and states: ‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.’ Owing up to this, many animal activists and lovers took this matter to the Member of Parliament Maneka Gandhi with regards to the BMC violating constitutional rights. “These notices were placed by the Solid West Management of the Municipal Corporation. There is a provision under the BMC Act to fine those littering on the roads. Feeding animals is not an offence but feeding them in a public place and then leaving the litter behind is restricted,” Civic official Dr Yogesh Shetty told Mid-day.
Humane or Poison?
While the city of Mumbai has a huge number of Pigeon population and that the same needs to be controlled, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) believes that, “operators generally use avicides or bird poisons such as Avitrol and DRC-1339 to control the same”. However, these poisons are toxic, thus causing the birds to suffer immensely and affects their nervous system. “Excluding birds from an area and conditioning them to avoid the area are both effective, humane ways of dealing with a pigeon overpopulation problem. However, this should be done as early as possible to discourage them from setting in,” reports PETA. Sticking to a humane way to control bird population can dishearten many animal lovers, as bird feeding has been an age-old tradition in the city. On the other hand, poisonous methods can impact and harm the lives of these animals. What could be the best alternative to control population is the talk of the town now.
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