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Count for ‘Bird Flu Deaths’ in Himachal Crosses 31000, Poultry Farmers, Fishermen Face Huge Losses 

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Bird flu in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Rising count of dead migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh due to an outbreak of “bird flu” is keeping the Horticulture and Wildlife Departments on their toes. The cause of deaths at the Pong Dam Sanctuary was H5N1 Avian Influenza virus, informed the Wildlife Wing of the State Forest Department on Wednesday. Samples of dead birds were sent to NIHASD Bhopal, it was informed.  

The tally for Migratory bird deaths in Himachal Pradesh has crossed the 31,000 mark. Till January 5, this number was 2736 for the Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary alone. Some deaths of migratory birds have been reported from around Govind Sagar lake in Bilaspur district. About 90 percent of these deaths include Bar-Headed Gees, which migrate to Pong Dam wetlands from Siberia and Mongolia every year. These birds are known for their capability to sustain long flights at very high altitudes ranging from 5000 to 6000 meters above sea level, especially while crossing the Himalayan range. Other than that, some crows have also been found dead in some areas. But the reason of death was yet to be ascertained.  

According to the Department, it was on 28 December 2020 that the field staff of Dhameta Range had first reported sudden deaths of four Bar-Headed Geese and one Common Teal in Fatehpur area.

The Wildlife Wing said that it was working actively to contain this outbreak of “bird-flu” and the field staff has been directed to maintain strict vigil and active surveillance on the situation.

“Rapid Response Teams have been constituted and deployed for collection and safe disposal of dead birds as per protocol. The infected areas are being disinfected and sanitized. The whole operation is being supervised by DFO Wildlife Hamirpur,”

informed a spokesperson of the Forest Department.

The outbreak of the flu in and around Pong Dam Sanctuary has promoted the government to ban fishing and livestock activity within an area of one kilometre from the lake’s periphery. An alert has been sounded within a radius of 10 km from the periphery of the lake. Also, commercial activity relating to poultry, birds, and fish has prohibited in Fatehpur, Dehra, Jawali and Indora subdivision of Kangra district.

The outbreak is haunting poultry farmers and those dealing in chicken and egg sales and export to markets. Poultry farmers fear that the outbreak would cause losses worth crores as the winter season is the peak season for their business. In case bird flu is reported in poultry farms, thousands of birds would have to be culled to prevent further spread, resulting in losses to these farmers. According to people involved in poultry and fishing, the demand has already fallen drastically after the news regarding the outbreak of the flu broke out.

The Animal Husbandry Department has sent 119 samples of poultry birds from areas around the Dam to the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Jalandhar. The results of the tests were still awaited. Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, Dr Sanjeev Dhiman informed that so far no case of bird flu has been reported among poultry birds.

So far, the Government of India has confirmed an outbreak of Avian Influenza in Rajasthan (Baran, Kota, Jhalawar), Madhya Pradesh (Mandsaur, Indor, Malwa), Kerala (Kottayam, Allapuzha), and Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra.

The measures suggested by the Union Government to the affected States to contain the disease and prevent further spread as per the Action Plan on Avian Influenza include strengthening the biosecurity of poultry farms, disinfection of affected areas, proper disposal of dead birds/carcasses, timely collection and submission of samples for confirmation and further surveillance, intensification of surveillance plan as well as the general guidelines for the prevention of disease spread from affected birds to poultry and human. Coordination with the forest department for reporting any unusual mortality of birds was also suggested to the States. The other states were also requested to keep a vigil on any unusual mortality amongst birds and to report immediately to take necessary measures.

Avian Influenza (AI) viruses have been circulating worldwide for centuries with four known major outbreaks recorded in the last century. India notified the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. Though the Government of India denies that the bird flu is only zoonotic, according the World Health Organization, there has been cases of infection in humans too.

According to WHO,

“As of 10 December 2020, a total of 1,568 laboratory confirmed human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported to WHO since early
2013. Among them, 33 cases were infected with HPAI A(H7N9) virus, which have mutations in the hemagglutinin gene indicating a change to high pathogenicity in poultry. No increased transmissibility or virulence of the virus within human cases has been detected related to the HPAI A(H7N9) virus.”

“Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments. The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food,”

WHO adds. 

According to Centre for Disease Control And Prevention,

“Rare human infections with some avian viruses have occurred most often after unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with avian influenza viruses. However, some infections have been identified where direct contact was not known to have occurred. Illness in people has ranged from mild to severe.”

The Centre also adds,

“Because of the possibility that avian influenza A viruses could change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person spread is extremely important for public health.”

Implementing management practices that incorporate bio security principles, personal hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection protocols, as well as cooking and processing standards, are effective means of controlling the spread of the AI viruses.

In India, the disease spreads mainly by migratory birds coming into India during winter months i.e. from September – October to February – March. The secondary spread by human handling (through fomites) cannot be ruled out.

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HP Statehood Day 2022: Relaxation in Electricity Charges, Third Option in New Pay scale, Higher Pay scale to Constables and other Announcements

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Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government, on the 52nd Statehood Day, has made several announcements. It announced 31 percent DA to employees, relaxation on electricity charges up to 60 units, enhancement of annual income for availing benefit of pensions and welfare schemes.

Benefits of higher scales would be provided immediately to all those constables who were eligible for higher scales. All the constables appointed after 2015 would be eligible for higher scale as per other categories of employees, the government announced.

The State Government announced that now while implementing the new pay scale, the employees would be given a third option besides two options already given to them. The State has recently implemented new pay scales for employees of the State Government. The state government said it felt that few disparities existed in the new pay scales of few categories.

Pensioners of the State Government would also be given pension as per the new pay scales of the Punjab government, the government announced.

The government also announced 31 per cent DA to all the employees of the State at par with the Central Government employees. Also, an increase in annual income for availing the benefits of various welfare schemes and pensions for the weaker sections of the society from existing Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000 was announced.

Now, the domestic consumers of the state whose electricity consumption is up to 60 units per month would not be charged any fee per electricity unit.  They would be incurred zero cost per unit of electricity consumed. With this decision, domestic consumers whose electricity consumption is up to 125 units, would be charged only one rupee per unit cost.  Over 11 lakh domestic consumers would be benefitted from this decision and the State government would incur an additional expenditure of Rs 60 crore on providing this relief, the government informed.

For the farmers in the state, the government announced to reduce the present per unit cost of electricity from 50 paise to 30 paise.  This benefit will be payable from April 2022.

Further, the HP Government said that in the year 1971, the per capita income of the state was only Rs 651 which has increased to Rs. 1,83,286, the GDP of the State has gone up from Rs 223 crore in 1971 to Rs 1,56,522 crore. The literacy rate of the State has gone up to 82.80 percent which was 23 percent in 1971. The agricultural production in the state has increased from 954 metric tons to 1500 metric tons and food grain production in 1971 was 9.40 lakh MT which has increased to 16.74 lakh MT, the state government said.

The state-level function of 52nd Statehood Day was celebrated at historic Thodo ground in Solan, where Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur unfurled the Tricolor and took salute from the contingents of Police, IRB Jungalberi, Home Guards and, NCC girls etc.

The parade was commanded by DSP Pranav Chauhan.

The Chief Minister also honoured three war widows of Solan District including Dil Kumari Thapa, Savitri Devi and Nirmala Devi on this occasion. Head constable Sandeep Chandel was also felicitated by the Chief Minister who has been awarded Prime Ministers Police Medal for life-saving for the year 2018.  

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Covid Restrictions in Himachal Extended Till Jan 31st, State Reports 11 Deaths in 24 Hours

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Shimla-Covid-19 restrictions in Himachal Pradesh has been extended till January 31, 2022. Currently, the state is witnessing a sharp spike in daily Covid-19 cases and deaths. Today, despite a low sampling of 7896, the State reported 1766 new cases and 11 Covid-related deaths. During the last eight days,  the State has recorded over 50 deaths due to Covid-19.

The deceased included a 2-year-old female child too. Shimla district reported the highest five deaths. The Covid death toll in the state had risen to 3927 according to the latest update. But the State did not impose any new restrictions, like on the entry of visitors and curtailing capacity of public transport. Further, during the last 24 hours, Shimla, Solan, and Kangra districts reported more than 250 cases each. 

Covid restrictions in himachal pradesh extended

 A notification in this regard was issued by the Government of Himachal Pradesh (Revenue Department – Disaster Management Cell) on Monday. 

“Taking note of the present situation of Covid-19 in the State, the restrictions announced on January 5th, 8th, 9th, and 13th will continue to remain in effect till 6 am of 31st January 2022,” the notification said.

Programs scheduled on the occasion of Himachal Pradesh Statehood Day ( 25th January) and Republic Day (26th January) would be held on the condition of 50% capacity of indoor/outdoor spaces.

The educational institutes, including ITI, polytechnic colleges, and coaching institutes, would remain closed. Online classes, however, would continue in schools.

With the ongoing surge in daily cases and deaths, more restrictions could be in stock.

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Mandi Hooch Case: Political Storm Over Arrest and Expulsion of Hamirpur Congress Leader

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Mandi-On Sunday, the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee expelled General Secretary of the Hamirpur District Congress Committee following his arrest from Chandigarh in alleged connection with the Mandi hooch case.

It’s pertinent to mention that last week seven persons had lost their lives in two days and eight others are still hospitalized due to consumption of spurious liquor in Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, Mandi district. Following this tragedy, a police SIT was formed, various places were raided, seizures of incriminating materials were made, several persons were arrested. So far, the police have arrested 13 persons in this connection and more arrests could be made as the SIT unfolds layers of people involved.

Neeraj Thakur, who was said to have risen to a political leader from a salesman at a liquor shop, had created an empire for himself allegedly from the illicit trade of spurious liquor. The worth of his properties and assets is being assessed, but the initial reports suggested his assets were disproportionate to his income. Now every political leader he was in contact with is under the scanner of the police SIT.

Also Read: Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

According to Superintendent of Police, Mandi, Shalini Agnihotri, on Sunday, police detained Praveen Thakur, who is a resident of Hamirpur, two persons, identified as Sunny and Pushpender of Uttar Pradesh, AK Tripathi of Jammu and Kashmir, and Sagar Saini of Delhi. The police have claimed that it has also apprehended the kingpin.

The state Congress chief and the opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri who had been issuing statements holding the BJP government responsible for the Mandi hooch tragedy is on backfoot following the expulsion of Neeraj. At the same time, the failure of the state Excise and Taxation Department in checking this flourishing illicit trade of spurious liquor right under its nose is also evident.

State BJP general secretary Trilok Jamwal, State BJP spokesperson Baldev Tomar and co-media-in-charge Karan Nadda on Sunday issued statements referring to the expulsion of Neeraj as evidence that the Congress leaders were involved in, as well as, patron of liquor mafia in the State.

Further, with elections to the Shimla Municipal Corporation and elections to the state Assembly later this year, this issue has turned into a political storm.  

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor.

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