Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: Amid fears of a fresh outbreak of bird flu, the West Bengal government has proposed a nearly three-fold increase in allocation for the Animal Resource Development Department.

This will help rehabilitate the families affected by the disease and mitigate problems caused by the outbreak.

A sum of Rs. 62.6 crore is proposed as Plan outlay for the department next year, up from Rs. 23.4 crore, in the 2008-09 budget presented in the Assembly on Monday by West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta.

He said that 39.98 lakh chickens were culled since the outbreak in January 2008, and an extensive programme of disinfection had been taken up. Poultry farming was banned for three months in the affected areas.

Apart from paying compensation for the loss of the livestock, additional financial assistance of Rs. 500 each was paid to 7 lakh families. An alternative livestock farming programme was proposed for rehabilitating poultry farmers in the affected areas. An additional Rs. 105 crore would be required for this. There was a fresh outbreak of bird flu in a few places and similar steps would have to be taken.

Mr. Dasgupta said the State had already sanctioned Rs. 51 crore and a demand had been made to the Centre for sharing 50 per cent of the expenditure for compensation and an alternative livestock farming programme. While this was admissible under the present rules, so far only Rs. 10 crore had been received from the Centre.