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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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Bad Weather Warning for Himachal, Tourists and Locals Advised Not to Venture into Higher Hills

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Shimla– The Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department, Shimla, has predicted heavy to very heavy rains for middle and lower hills on October 17th and 18th. The Met has also issued orange and yellow alerts for various districts.

Meanwhile, heavy snowfall has been predicted in higher hills and advisory has been issued for both locals and tourists to avoid travelling to higher hills.

While a yellow alert with a prediction of thunderstorms and lightning at isolated places has been issued for Una and Hamirpur district on October 17, an orange alert with a prediction of heavy rainfall, thunderstorm, lightning and hailstorm at isolated places has been issued for Bilaspur, Chamba, Kangra, Kullu, Mandi, Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, and Kinnaur.

For October 18, a yellow alert has been issued for Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Chamba, and Kullu districts and an orange alert for the remaining districts.

The Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul-Spiti, warned that in view of the Met Department’s forecast for the next two days, locals and tourists should avoid Manali-Leh National Highway (NH-03) and refrain from venturing into higher hills.

In case, travel is unavoidable due to some compelling circumstances, such candidates have been asked to confirm weather and road conditions on given telephone numbers, which are 9459661355, 01900-202509, 510, 517 and 1077.

The DC also informed that in case of any emergency, people should contact the District Disaster Management Cell, Lahaul-Spiti, on 01900 202509, 510, 517, and Tall Free -1077.

The weather is predicted to be dry on October 19 and 20. 

Feature Photo: Photo by Rodrigo Souza from Pexels

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Haryana Tourists Fire Bullets in Air at Hatu Mata Temple, Brandish Rifle, Manhandle Priest

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Hatu temple gun fire by tourists

Shimla-Following regular instances of hooliganism and assaults with weapons by tourists from neighbouring states, especially Punjab and Haryana, the Himachal Pradesh Police had announced regular checking of tourist vehicles on borders to prevent them from carrying weapons into the state. However, the tourists continue to bring weapons, including firearms, into the state.   

In a fresh incident, some tourists from Haryana on October 13, 2021, reportedly fired bullets in the air near the Hatu Mata Temple, Narkanda.  On hearing the sound of gunshots, the priest of the temple, Lalit Sharma, approached these tourists and objected to it. The tourists allegedly grabbed him by the neck and gave him life threats.

The priest freed himself somehow and immediately informed the temple committee about the incident. A member of the temple committee also informed the local police.

The priest said that a special pooja (worship) was organized at the temple on the occasion of Durga Ashtami and a large number of people was present inside the premises to participate in the pooja. This incident created panic among these devotees.

A taxi driver, Shravan Kumar, told police that two cars – HR 16X-3753 MG Hector & PB 26G-5555 Fortuner- were parked in the middle of the Hatu Mata link road, blocking the traffic. The tourists in these vehicles were brandishing guns and creating a nuisance. A short video clip showing one of these men brandishing a gun from their vehicle has also appeared. It was speculated that these men were intoxicated. 

Later, the local police arrived at the scene and apprehended about eight tourists for questioning. The police recovered a pistol, a rifle, and a dozen of bullets from the men. Cases were filed against two of them. When inquired in front of the temple committee, the two tourists told the police their names and addresses. They were identified as Kuldeep, 37, of Tehsil Lauharu, District Bhiwani, Haryana,  and Abhishek Kumar, 27, of district Bhawani, Harayana.

A case was filed at the Police Station, Kumarsain under Section 336, 34 of IPC and 25-54/59 of the Arms Act. The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Rampur, Chandrashekhar confirmed the report.

The temple committee has expressed concern over the incident and asked the police and the district administration to take stringent action against these men for hooliganism and creating a nuisance. The committee also urged that steps should be taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

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New Chief Justice of HP High Court Justice Mohammad Rafiq Takes Oath

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Shimla-The new Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, Justice Mohammad Rafiq, was today administered the oath of office by Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar in a ceremony held at Raj Bhawan.

Justice Mohammad Rafiq was born on 25th May 1960 at Sujangarh in the Churu district of Rajasthan. He completed B.Com in 1980, LL.B in 1984 and M.Com in 1986 from the University of Rajasthan.

He, later on, joined the Bar and practised as an Advocate after enrolment with the Bar Council of Rajasthan on 8th July 1984. He practised exclusively in Rajasthan High Court at Jaipur in almost all branches of law and specially conducted constitutional matters, service matters, land acquisition cases, land revenue cases, preventive detention cases, customs & excise matters, railway claims cases, tax matters, company matters and criminal matters before the High Court.

He worked as Assistant Government Advocate for the State of Rajasthan from 15th July 1986 to 21st December 1987 and Deputy Government Advocate from 22nd December 1987 to 29th June 1990. He appeared before the High Court as panel advocate for various Departments of the State Government for five years i.e. from 1993 to 1998.

He also represented the Union of India as Standing Counsel from 1992 to 2001 before the High Court. He also represented the Indian Railways, Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board, Rajasthan Board of Muslim Wakfs, Jaipur Development Authority, Rajasthan Housing Board and Jaipur Municipal Corporation before the Rajasthan High Court.

He was appointed as Additional Advocate General for the State of Rajasthan on 7th January 1999 and worked as such till his elevation to the Bench. He was appointed as Judge of the Rajasthan High Court on 15th May 2006. He also worked as Acting Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court twice; from 7th April 2019 to 4th May 2019 and from 23rd September 2019 to 5th October 2019. He was also the Executive Chairman of the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority and the Administrative Judge of the Rajasthan High Court before elevation as the Chief Justice. He was the Chief Justice of the High Court of Meghalaya from 13th November 2019 to 26th April 2020. Justice Mohammad Rafiq was administered the oath of office of the Chief Justice of Orissa High Court on 27th April 2020, on being transferred from the Meghalaya High Court. He was administered the oath of office of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on 3rd January 2021, on being transferred from the Orissa High Court.

The ceremony took place at the Darbar Hall of Raj Bhawan, where Chief Secretary Ram Subhag Singh conducted the proceedings of the oath ceremony and read out the notification issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Law and Justice regarding the transfer of Justice Mohammad Rafiq as Chief Justice of the HP High Court.

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