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MP: A 300-Day Protest Over Compensation for Pigs' Death in Rewa That’s Going Nowhere

The protest by pig-rearers began on October 6, 2022, pleading with the administration to compensate for the death and culling of pigs to check the African Swine Fever outbreak in August last.
MP: A 300-Day Protest Over Compensation for Pigs' Death in Rewa That’s Going Nowhere

Rewa / Bhopal: About 200 metre across the road from the Rewa collector’s office, in a 10x10 makeshift tent covered with a green net on three sides and equipped with a wooden cot and few chairs, a group of pig-rearers, with a six-point charter of demands, have been sitting on protest for the past 300 days.

With the pictures of Sardar Patel and BR Ambedkar's hanging on one side of the makeshift tent, the pig-rearers began their protest on October 6, 2022, pleading with the administration for compensation for the death and culling of pigs undertaken in lieu of African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak in August last year in the region. 

The protesting group identifies itself as members of the Bansod community -- a community of bamboo craftsmen --  who made pig-rearing a source of livelihood after the government limited the use of bamboo.

Belonging to a Scheduled Caste (SC), the community is socially and politically backward and has no proper source of livelihood except pig-rearing or farming.

Unfazed with the outcome of the protest, they say, "Over 30,000 members of the Bansod community who live in Rewa were affected by the ASF outbreak. Thousands of pigs died in the outbreak, and hundreds were culled to prevent the outbreak."

"We were given verbal assurance of Rs 15,000 compensation for an animal weighing a quintal. But were offered peanuts instead, making many families live from hand-to-mouth at a time when they were already coping with the hardships of COVID-19," Pradeep Kumar Basod, leader of the protestors, told NewsClick.

The protestors were enraged that 300 days had passed since they had been on protest, yet no one from the government, the ruling party, or Opposition leaders had come to their aid. "We have given a memorandum not only to officials but also to Union ministers like Narendra Singh Tomar and Jyotiraditya Scindia, but to no avail," said Basod. 

The Rewa unit of farmers' collective -- Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) – has extended its support to the protestors and pushed the district administration to look into their demands. Leaders like Yogendra Yadav and Rakesh Tikait and others came to Rewa to build pressure on the government and met the protesters, supporting their demands. 

After the sudden death of nearly 2,000 pigs within two weeks in August last year, the Rewa district administration was quick to send its samples to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal suspecting the spread of the flu or virus. The lab confirmed the presence of African swine fever in pigs which travelled to Rewa from 225 km North-East Banaras city, said an official.

Rajesh Mishra, joint director of the state animal husbandry department's Rewa division, said, "Since Banaras imports pigs from foreign countries, the virus came all the way to Rewa after a few members of the community brought pigs from there for rearing. The flu was not limited to Rewa but was found in Satna, Sidhi and other districts of the division," he told NewsClick.

To prevent the outbreak, under the Prevention and Control of Infections and Contagious Animal Disease Act 2009, the district administration issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), banning the transportation, purchase and sale of pigs and their meat.

The news of the spread of African swine fever created havoc among pig-rearers. They began hiding the deaths and illnesses of their pigs in a bid to save the remaining animals from culling. But they couldn't. Officials came with heavy police force and took away their animals by force and disposed of them to check the outbreak.  

"The district administration says the ASF didn't spread to humans and other animals. Yet, they injected poison on the surviving animals to prevent the outbreak," Basod said.

"The administration didn't conduct surveys or take details of the affected families at the time of outbreak but forcefully culled the remaining pigs, which threatened the livelihood of thousands of families," he added.

Shiv Singh, district convenor of SKM, Rewa, told NewsClick, that: "A seven-member committee was formed on November 18 last year to conduct a survey of the affected family in a bid to compensate them. But the survey report never saw the light of the day."

According to the MP animal husbandry department, over 3,900 pigs died in the outbreak in Rewa, Satna, and Sidhi districts and over 675 were culled.

"Rs 43 lakh has been distributed to 675 families who were culled," Mishra said. "Since it's an incurable disease, the Union government compensates the affected family, and we pass the funds on. But there is no provision to compensate those families whose animals died in the outbreak," he added.

Responding to Mishra's remark, one of the protesters, Urmila Bansal, reiterated their demands. "The way farmers were compensated for crop loss in case of natural calamity, the members of Bansod community, who suffered great losses owing to ASF, should also be paid Rs 10,000 per family accompanied with a piglet to survive," she said.

"Many pig-rearers lost a dozen animals; some lost more than that. Pigs are the only source of our livelihood. But the administration only paid compensation for one or two animals," she alleged.

When asked about the protesters' demand, Mishra said: "Several attempts were made last year to compensate them, but in the absence of policy or guidelines, the compensation attempt failed. Even the district collector sent a proposal to the government urging them to compensate them but in vain."

"A few politicians have also agreed to help the affected families from MLA funds. But owing to the unavailability of guidelines and the survey of the affected families, the compensation bid can't be formulated," he added.

Contrary to what the officials said, a protester, Rajaram Bansal, showing a government order of 2018, said, "According to a Madhya Pradesh revenue department 2018 order, in case of natural calamity or fire, the affected families and landholders are liable to get compensation in case of loss of animals. The order pegged Rs 3,000 compensation for each pig. But the administration isn't ready to admit this." 

A paper cutting of an English daily carries the statement of the then Rewa Collector Manoj Pushp, who told the newspaper after the outbreak, that the affected families would be compensated. "On August 28, 2022, the then Rewa Collector Manoj Pushp told an English Daily that those owners whose animals had died after the notification of the disease in the district are also being compensated by the norms against the death of their animals." 

When NewsClick reached out to the current Rewa district collector Pratibha Pal for her comments, she neither responded to the calls nor the messages.

Miffed with the administration's response, the protestors have threatened to vote out the ruling party (Bharatiya Janata Party) if their demands are unmet. "We have over 25,000 votes in Rewa alone, and we have no hesitation in saying that the community will vote against the ruling party in upcoming Assembly polls," said Basod.

Taking a dig at the ruling government, SKM’s Singh said, "The CM (Shivraj Chouhan)makes two promises every day and projects himself as a maseeha (saviour) of the poor and often visits Rewa. He must have heard about the ongoing protest and plight of the community. Thus, he should make one more promise -- to provide livelihood to members of the Bansod community.”

On one hand, the district administration and animal husbandry department is showing helplessness in compensating the pig-rearers. On the other, the protestors are hoping for a miracle and are adamant on their demands.

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