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Home >> Birding Banter >> 400 pigeons to lose jobs
 

400 pigeons to lose jobs

Apr 19, 2006 at 01:38 AM
 
400 pigeons to lose jobs from the pages of The TRIBUNE newspaper published from Chandigarh. (10th October) - Shiva Kumar October 2001
 
For more than half a century homing pigeons acted as faithful couriers for the Orissa police. Now, nearly 400 of them are set to lose their jobs because the government cannot pay those who task the birds. Officials say the state police pigeon service, started way back in1946, is becoming redundant because of e-mail and the Internet, and that two-thirds of the 600 pigeons with the department would have to go. "We are going to retrench the pigeons to save about Rs. 5.4 million we spend annually on them," a finance department official said. The police bought the pigeons of Belgian Homer species after World War II to launch a courier service in a coastal state where repeated floods and cyclones make communications often near impossible. The birds have proved more than useful, rendering yeoman's service during elections and natural disasters by carrying vital messages from one place to another. The birds could fly 700-800 km to deliver messages and return to the home centre. When Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Orissa in 1948 to lay the foundation stone for the Hirakud dam, a Belgian Homer pigeon flew ahead of him carrying messages from Cuttack. The birds also played a stellar role during the floods of 1982 when all communications to a coastal Orissa town were cut off. With wireless links snapped, pigeons were the only means of messaging between the beleaguered cities. Even during the 1999 supercyclone, the birds ferried important messages across the devastated zone. Between 1960 and 1973 more then 1,000 pigeons were used by the police service. Now they are used only in the districts of Koraput, Bolangir, Phulbani and Puri. The life span of a pigeon is 15 to 20 years. Many of them have died due to both known and mysterious diseases. A state audit had dubbed the service a wasteful expenditure in modern times. The role of pigeons has been progressively shrinking in view of the information technology boom. The police pigeon department employs 32 constables, an Assistant Sub-Inspector and some sub-inspectors. Officials say these men can be transferred to other departments as and when there are vacancies. The police has decided that 200 of the "sacked" pigeons would be kept in Cuttack and Angul and the rest would be handed over to the wildlife department. Homing pigeons were used to carry messages in both Greece and China in ancient times, and by the 16th century pigeon postal services began to emerge. Prior to the age of electronic communication, pigeons were considered one of the most reliable forms of communication. During World War I, pigeons carried thousands of messages that saved many hundreds of lives. The birds continued to be used in World War II too. The birds flew through enemy fire, and most amazingly completed their missions.
 
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