Crows are supposed to be intelligent, alert and attentive wild birds found in our neighborhood. It is not easy to hit a crow by throwing stone or a stick. When a crow dies somewhere many hundreds of crows gather at the place of occurrence in no time to mourn the death. But situation was quite different when crows in thousands died in different localities of Jamshedpur between September to December 2011 not a single crow appeared at any of such places. Perhaps they were able to sense about spread of some sort of killer epidemic.
An eminent ornithologist and Head of the Zoology Department in local cooperative college who guides the NGO Yugantar Bharati in its environmental initiatives at Jamshedpur Prof. K. K. Sharma was the first to sound alert about crow deaths followed by a young journalist Keshav Kumar Singh who broke this news in Jamshedpur edition of Hindi Daily "Dainik Jagran". Neither the local administration nor the Tata Steel management responsible for providing civic amenities paid heed to it.
In fact management of the Tata Steel and the officials of district administration were at a loss. In the beginning they tried to play down. But the people took it otherwise and began raising accusing fingers towards adverse impact of industrial activities in Jamshedpur and attributed this fatal incident as a natural fall out of acute pollution generated by Tata Steel and others. A few months back since advent of monsoon more than thousand residents of Jamshedpur were attacked by a mysterious disease with symptoms akin to chicken guinea. It was vivid in their psyche and they were apprehensive that crow deaths in large number may bring more serious misery to them as crows are the nature's scavenger who helps in keeping human habitat clean.
Saryu Roy was the loan social activist who took up the issue seriously. He raised alarm and warned of dire consequences if cause behind crow deaths is not identified and treated suitably. He made written representation to Deputy Commissioner, discussed the problem with the experts, contacted Principal Secretary of Animal Husbandry Department, Govt. of Jharkhand, met the M.D. of Tata Steel and tried to convince that emergent step needs to be taken to diagnose the illness and treat it on war footing in public interest.
His effort bore result and immediately a team of Animal Husbandry Dept. experts came to Jamshedpur followed by the Govt. of India experts from Bareily and Bhopal laboratories also came. They later on concluded that attack of avian flu caused by H5N1 virus was the cede behind large number of crow deaths at Jamshedpur.
Prof. K K Sharma on behalf of Yugantar Bharati also collected on the spot samples of dying crows and parceled sent it to Salim Ali centre for ornithology & Natural History, Coimbatore. Dr. S Muralidharan, Principal Scientist, Division of Eco-toxicology of the centre responded with his test report and conclusion.