It looks like Hyderabad’s fortune-tellers are in for bad days. The forest department has taken several of them to task for the alleged torture and cruel treatment of parakeets.

Animal Welfare Officer Ucko Giridhar Gopal said raids were conducted by the State Forest Department officials and by the members of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in the Chirkur, Kukatpally and Ameerpet areas.

“Nearly 23 rose-ringed parakeets have been rescued by government officials and various other animals rights organisations. The feathers of the parakeets have been plucked and they are often chained to cages,” Mr Gopal said.

Severely injured parakeets have been sent to the veterinary department of the Nehru Zoological Park for treatment.

Mr. Dattu of the People for Animals, an organisation that works for animal rights, says caging or hurting parakeets for commercial purposes is an offence under the Wildlife (Protection Act), 1972 and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1979.

“Except crows, other birds, including parakeets, are covered under Schedule 4 of the Wildlife (Protection Act), 1972. Even after being aware of the law, fortune-tellers illegally continue to use parrots for running their business.”

Mr. Dattu claimed that an amount of Rs. 2 lakh had been offered to fortune-tellers as incentive against continuing the business.

“They could start a kirana shop of their own or hire auto-rickshaws and earn an honest living.”

The other side

Sixty-year-old Saibaba, however, has a different story to tell.

“For the past 35 years, I have been carrying forward my ancestors’ legacy. Fortune-telling is my only source of income. I have a family of seven to support. How am I supposed to survive? Most of us did not even dream of education due to the poverty-stricken conditions we lived in.”

Saibaba claims the Andhra Pradesh government had promised aid and protection to fortune-tellers so that they could continue their business. “They (the government) have failed to keep their promise. What are we supposed to do now?” a dismayed Saibaba says.

He disputes Mr. Dattu’s claims that the government had provided them with monetary aid. Neither have there been attempts to rehabilitate them, he says. He also brushed aside allegations of cruelty to the birds. “We never plucked their wings; neither did we chain them to cages. We left them free.”

Officials have launched a crackdown on fortune-tellers for cruelty to parakeets, which are covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972