Last year we installed a bird feeder in our terrace with great gusto. The lil one and I spent the next 36 hours doing almost a Shikari Shambhu-esque stalk-step around it. Ah, those were the days; those 3 ones, in any which case. Enter the Phadke residence, and if there is no human presence, all you have to do is go to the pillar around the terrace and you’d be sure to find at least one Phadke there, lurking for a bird. And after all that lurking and pining, not a single avian species came even close to our feeder. Gave us the bird, royally, I am tempted to say. On day three, the only thing with wings that came close for an inspection was a wayward dragonfly and after getting disappointed with the bajra filled into the feeder, buzzed close to the lil one’s head causing him to jump and yell madly, in the process repelling the only fan our feeder had ever attracted.
Sigh, such is life. After 3 months of complete inaction on the feeder, a little squirrel discovered it, much to my delight! Now the feeder is designed in such a way that its supposed to be accessible only to little birds that can perch daintily on the feeder support for a snack. Al least, that’s what their ad campaign claims. In fact, the whole point of getting a bird feeder is not to support the squirrel feeder program. However, Squirrel Phadke (as we call her…and we’ve decided in the honour of Beti Padhao Beti Bachao that it’s a she) is quite a squirrel, God bless her soul and her furry tail! She has found out a way of hanging upside down whilst enjoying the snack deviously, in a way that would make Ramdev Baba in the Shirshaasan pose jealous.
Now, when Squirrel Phadke started helping herself to the bajra, I didn’t really mind. In fact, I so enjoyed seeing her at our place that I started also placing some peanuts on the feeder plate; that’s a seriously expensive squirrel feeder program by the way. In the process of eating the bajra, however, Squirrel Phadke managed to topple the feeder jar and quite a lot of bajra spilled onto our terrace. Now, this is where the issue arose because pigeons around the house now started to come in for the bajra spilt on the terrace. Well, well, well. In fact, I realized that pigeons are in fact not as dumb as they seem to be, despite those idiotic guttural, grunting sounds that they make which positively drive me crazy. They now wait for Squirrel Phadke to get to the jar in her unique Jackie Chan- Ramdev Baba style so that they would also get a bite of the bajra. And much as I associate Squirrel Phadke with the Beti Bachao, I associate pigeons with ahm…the Swachh Bharat abhiyaan. Jahaan soch, wahaan….pigeon….GRRRRR!
Now, the lil one has strong anti-pigeon leanings. From suddenly yelling at them to running towards them making horrible sounds on the terrace, he has in the process got himself a special anti-pigeon voice of the R D Burman timbre. Ooooooooo, he yells and I, by reflex dish out the Mehbooba, mehbooba (much to hubby’s amusement and horror) on the poor unsuspecting birds that fly away in total alarm when they see the mom-son duo at their Burman best. But despite such musical protests, we are unable to control the pigeon menace. Exasperated, my lil one said the other day, “We put up the feeder for the little birds. But the squirrel gets in and in the process the pigeons dirty our terrace. And the little birds are nowhere to be seen! Can’t we devise a plan so that the bajra gets only to the birds or the squirrels but not to the pigeons?”
Omigosh, what an age old question! Hmmm. How do we devise a plan so that the food gets to the beneficiary directly, without causing spillovers, literally speaking? According to the Economic Survey of India (ESI), nearly 15 per cent of PDS rice, 54 per cent of wheat and 48 per cent of the sugar is lost in leakages. Three-fourths of the subsidised LPG cylinders are used by the pigeons, the richer half of the population.
What we really have to do is change the design of the feeder so that even if it tilts, it does not really allow the spillover to happen. The name of the program at the national level is obviously, JAM. The JAM trinity that, again according to the ESI, promises subsidy “nirvana”. Jan Dhan, Adhaar and Mobile transfers. Today’s papers tell me that now 82 crore of the Indian population is covered by Adhaar, making it the world’s largest UID program. What the Government plans to do is eventually move out of offering food to the little birds and instead, transfer equivalent amount of cash into their Adhar enabled Jan Dhan accounts; that should hopefully keep the squirrels/ pigeons away from a system that was never meant for them in the first place.
In the meanwhile, the Phadke household is also trying to dismantle the PDS; the Pigeon- Dove- Squirrel trinity. However, much as with the national program, looks like it’ll take a long time.