Saurus crane sparks political debate in Uttar Pradesh. Here’s why

A Sarus crane that a UP man was looking after for a year, was confiscated by the forest department. The authorities also issued a notice and filed a case against the man, amid opposition from Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav

Livemint
First Published26 Mar 2023
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav meets with a boy named Arif and his friend Sarus crane at a field during his visit to Amethi, on Sunday. Arif, who works as a harvest operator, found the injured bird on his farm, took care of it and provided all medical care to the bird, since then the two formed a special bond and became a talking point in social media.
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav meets with a boy named Arif and his friend Sarus crane at a field during his visit to Amethi, on Sunday. Arif, who works as a harvest operator, found the injured bird on his farm, took care of it and provided all medical care to the bird, since then the two formed a special bond and became a talking point in social media.(ANI Photo)

A Sarus crane was found lying unconscious in the field in Mandhaka village near Amethi town in Uttar Pradesh. The young man who found the bird in 2022 thought, it was dead. Arif Khan Gurjar on a closer look soon realised soon that it was still breathing and decided to take it home.

He cleaned the injured leg, which was bleeding, and applied a mixture of turmeric and mustard oil to treat the wound. To ensure the leg remains unmoved and protected, he covered it with bamboos sticks: a remedy popular in rural areas to treat fractures. The painstaking care paid dividends.

The man and the Sarus crane

"This saras is now like a family member. On a number of occasions, I left it in the fields to fly away to its own bird community but it refuses to leave me. It comes back to me every time," Gurjar told news agency PTI.

Then started the tale of a man and his Sarus crane friend. Standing like a sentinel while Gurjar surveys his fields, flapping its wings almost in tune with his rhythmic claps, the two would go on with their days for almost a year.

The bond is so intense that Gurjar, who sows wheat, paddy and other crops, said he can’t step outside his home.

"I have not attended any family function in last year because I just can't go anywhere. If it doesn’t find me around, it becomes uncomfortable. If I have to go for some work, I need to dodge him. During the night, the bird sleeps by my cot on his one leg,” he said.

Forest department confiscates Sarus crane

Then the Forest Department confiscated the Sarus crane and filed a case and issued a notice to Gurjar who rescued the Sarus crane and took care of it for a year, officials said. 

The bird was shifted to the Samaspur sanctuary in Rae Bareli to allow it to live in its natural environment, an official had said.

According to the notice issued by Assistant Divisional Forest Officer (Gauriganj) Ranvir Singh, Gurjar has been booked under relevant sections of the Wildlife Protection Act.

What are Sarus crane?

According to animalia.bio, sarus cranes are omnivorous, and eat a wide range of food, such as aquatic plants like sedge tubers, seeds, rice and other grains, crustaceans, snails, large insects such as grasshoppers, amphibians, reptiles, small vertebrates and fish.

This sarus, the tallest flying bird in the world standing 152-156 cm tall with a wingspan of 240 cm according to WWFIndia, eats with the family. It is regular humble everyday fare.

“It doesn’t cost me much. The bird eats homemade food. We do not make anything extra or special,” Gurjar said.

According WWFIndia, sarus cranes with predominantly grey plumage, naked red head and upper neck and pale red legs, are social creatures, found mostly in pairs or small groups of three or four.

They are known to mate for life with a single partner. Once a common sight in the paddy fields of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Assam, their population is now on the decline with only 15,000-20,000 found in India, a majority of which are in Uttar Pradesh, it said.

Political drama ensues

A day after the bird was taken away, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav held a press conference during which he condemned the Forest department action and asked indirectly if any official had the courage to take away the peacocks at the prime minister's residence.

On Thursday, Yadav alleged that the crane had gone missing before being rescued by some local residents. Forest officials, however, had denied the claim.

"Many thanks to the bird-loving 'Bi Saiya' village that saved the Sarus, fed it and did the work in which the Uttar Pradesh government failed. The truth is that there can be no greater power than love... If the BJP people understand this in time, then maybe the hatred inside them will reduce a bit," Yadav said on Twitter.

(With PTI inputs)

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