Kasargod (Kerala): Five stray cats caught from a COVID-19 ward of the general hospital here have died, prompting officials to send the vital organs of the animals for detailed examination in Thiruvananthapuram.
Officials on Thursday said a preliminary postmortem carried out here did not detect any "trace of COVID-19" and experts opined stress could be the reason behind the death of the cats, which were kept in a crate with little aeration after being caught.
The animal husbandry department officials decided to send their vital organs of the cats -- two male, a female and her two kittens -- to the State Institute of Animal Disease Centre in Thiruvananthapuram for detailed examinations, they said.
"Since the cats were caught from the COVID ward, the postmortem was conducted. No trace of COVID-19 could be detected... we decided to send the internal organs to Thiruvananthapuram," Dr Tito Joseph, who conducted the postmortem, told PTI.
If needed, the organs would be sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) lab in Bhopal for further examination, Joseph, who is the Kasargod district coordinator of animal disease control project, said.
The cats were found loitering in the COVID-19 wards before being caught on March 28 by dog snatchers engaged by the Department of Animal Husbandry following a directive from the District Collector based on complaints.
They were then kept in a crate with little aeration.
The female cat died two days after it was put up in the crate kept at the Animal Birth Control Centre in Kasaragod. Later, two more cats and the kittens died, officials said.
Thomas said the workers engaged by the department had provided food, including milk, to the cats while being kept in the crate. Experts, including Joseph, said they believe that stress could be the reason for the death of the cats.
"The stray cats were caged immediately. It is certain that they could not adapt to the situation in the crate. So we believe stress could be the reason for their death. But since it happened during COVID-19 scare we cannot take a chance.
That is the reason why a detailed examination of the internal organs of the cats was decided," Joseph said.
The Animal Husbandry Departments epidemiologist M J Sethulakshmi, part of the team of doctors who conducted the postmortem, said "no signs" of COVID-19 could be detected during the procedure.
The death of the cats come at a time when the government has put zoos in the country on highest alert and asked them to collect samples fortnightly in suspected cases after a tiger at a US zoo tested positive for coronavirus.
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Around June 1, a five-minute video of an interview of a woman recorded in the style of an exposé went viral. The woman appears to be an office-bearer and is sitting behind a desk. She says, “These people are terrorists and we are giving them VIP treatment… we are exhausting our resources on them, getting our doctors ill for them…we are using 100 test kits per day on them, if they didn’t exist we wouldn’t need the kits… these people should be hit and kept in solitary confinement… Can’t Yogi ji give an order that state’s resources won’t be used on them.. we are sacrificing Rs 100 crores of the nation for these 20 crores.” The population of Muslims in India is approximately 20 crores.
A mic with the logo of ‘News इंडिया 1’ can be seen in the video. The interviewers behind the camera are trying to gain an official statement from the woman for their news bulletin. As per social media claims, the woman being interviewed is Aarti Lalchandani, the principal of GVSM Medical College, Kanpur.
The social media claims are true. The person in the video is indeed Aarti Lalchandani, the principal of GVSM Medical College in Kanpur. On June 1, several media outlets published a report about the viral video including The Hindu and The Indian Express.
According to The Hindu, “Lalchandani first said that the video was “morphed” and that she did not refer to any community or target Muslims. But in the same breath, she also admitted that she made the comments as a vent during the initial days of the COVID-19 crisis in Kanpur.”
She told both the publications that the local journalist who leaked the video tried to blackmail her and extort administrative favors. However, speaking with Alt News, Lalchandani said that she wasn’t aware of the clip’s existence until it became viral on social media. It is unclear how she could possibly be blackmailed over something that wasn’t in her notice. Moreover, she was unable to provide any evidence of the same.
Omar Rashid, the journalist who wrote the report for The Hindu, tweeted that Lalchandani told the outlet that she had made the comments in anger.
The principal of Kanpur Medical College Arati Lalchandani allegedly calls Tablighi Jamaat members terrorists, says they should be sent to dungeons, jungles & solitary confinement rather than being treated in isolation wards. She told @the_hindu that she made the comment in anger pic.twitter.com/vfM2tVnTaV— Omar Rashid (@omar7rashid) May 31, 2020
In her statement that was sent over WhatsApp, Lalchandani wrote, “THESE ARE NOT MY STATEMENTS GIVEN TO MEDIA but a malicious sting and do not reflect my inner feelings.” She added, “Even a mother in her anger says go to hell to her own children. And then hugs them the next moment. My actions have always spoken louder than words and will continue to do so. I shall continue serving you all and you can always send to me anyone in need. I work 24 hours for you.”
It is pertinent to note that Lalchandani did not apologize for the racist comments.
Therefore the social media claim associated with the video is true. Aarti Lalchandani, the principal of GVSM Medical College in Kanpur, indeed made derogatory remarks against Tablighi Jamaat members and the Muslim community. She said the country should put them behind bars instead of spending money and resources for their treatment.
Here's her Facebook post: