CHENNAI: The early morning fowl market (kozhi sandhai) in Broadway wore a subdued look on Sunday. The usual clamour and crowd at sunrise were missing.
At 6 am, when officials of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), were preparing for a raid. Sadagopan (name changed), a pet shop owner, loitered around the street in Maskan Chavadi with an empty bird cage.
In an hour, Sadagopan’s cage emptied and filled, repeatedly, with love birds, parrots and exotic birds from distant lands. Little did he know that his subtle, yet brisk business with hawkers, was being watched by an SPCA scout.
Talk of a raid by an animal rights organisation was heard among the peddlers at this illegal market, but nevertheless business picked up pace and the place was soon swarming with a variety of young fowls in all hues, a few pedigree pups, rabbits and rats.
Around 7 am, the SPCA officials landed at the scene, swinging into action immediately as the scout D Shegar, honorary animal welfare officer, SPCA, threw off his cover, went after Sadagopan and his aide who had by now got hold of a bag full of exotic birds, numbering almost 80.
T Thiagarajan, honorary secretary, SPCA, P Srinivasalu, additional chief inspector, along with two inspectors joined the flurry of activity, seizing animals kept in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
It was only when the SPCA ambulance filled up with cages of birds and rats did the curious crowd of peddlers come to terms with the roundup.
A mob, angered by the confiscation, entered into a heated argument with the SPCA officials, surrounding the animal ambulance to retrieve the animals.
The ire of the mob turned towards press persons blaming them for the raid, with a few even threatening lens men of dire consequences. Ambushed and easily overpowered by the strength of the mob, that numbered over 200 people, the five-member SPCA team was incapacitated.
The officials could merely hold on to two cocktail parrots, 14 spotted pigeons and about 55 white rats — a paltry portion of the many exotic pigeons and hens they had originally confiscated in a total of 18 cages.
“We have the authority to enforce the PCA Act, but law and order has to be taken care of by the police force. We will file a complaint with the Commissioner of Police and seek their support in enforcing the PCA Act,” said Animal Welfare Officer D Shegar.
He added that the SPCA would carry out awareness drives in the Broadway fowl market area before carrying out raids in the future.
According to Shegar, the confiscated animals will be returned to their owners on production of valid documents, or fines.
However the sale of rats has to be probed. “Dissection and chemical testing on rats have been banned, hence the purpose of such a big market for rats has to be probed,” he said.
The sheer existence of the illegal market and the inability of authorities to rein in law breakers stand testament to the audacious attitude of illegal hawkers, thriving under the nose of law and order enforcers.