Urgent need to enforce law against killer manja

Daily more than 50 calls arrive at the desks of wildlife rescuers who risk life and limb to climb several stories to rescue wildlife.

We thought the battle against synthetic manja was long won. There are already stringent laws in place against this variety of killer kite string, an unbreakable, non-degradable nylon string. Even its possession and storage is punishable by up to a lakh of rupees, and seven years in prison. The penalty and jail terms for causing injury are obviously much higher.

Yet, how is it that this manja continues to injure people and wildlife in Bengaluru? On a daily basis, more than 50 calls arrive at the desks of wildlife rescuers to save animals caught in manja. Rescuers risk life and limb to climb great heights to rescue birds.

Synthetic Nylon Manja (Chinese Manja, Dor, Deal) is a pollutant of the worst kind. It is cheap, freely available and lethal to humans and animals. Used even once, it lingers in the environment and is extremely hard to remove and keeps causing death and injury for hundreds of years. We need your support to get rid of this killer menace from Karnataka. Together let us lift this cruel, killer stranglehold and keep Namma Karnataka safe. #StopManja2SaveLives

Read more: Tale of a backyard bird-rescue

People unaware about the dangers caused by manja

A survey indicated that most people are unaware that possession and use of manja is punishable, and that stringent penalties apply. They did not know the difference between legal and illegal manja. And, they had no idea how to escalate the issue if indeed there is an accident or injury.

Information, awareness, and empowerment are clearly a critical part of enforcement. It calls for strong involvement and commitment from the government.

Other states have strong systems in place. Their forest departments, police, local municipal bodies and pollution boards work in close tandem to ensure there is no sale, distribution, or use of manja.

An interested group of NGOs — Avian Rescue Rehabilitation Centre (ARRC), People for Animals (PFA), Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC), and CJ Memorial Trust have come together to jointly address and resolve this menace. The effort is supported by the Wildlife Trust of India as well.

This group has initiated an online petition on this subject and reached nearly 20,000 signatures. Clearly, the general public is concerned. Many letters and our petition have been personally handed over to Sanjai Mohan, Principal Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and the Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka, Gaurav Gupta, BBMP Chief Commissioner, Randeep D, Special Commissioner, as well as the DGP-IGP of Karnataka.

Rescuing birds from manja
Rescuing birds from manja. Pic credit: We Cubbon Park

Manja kills humans, not just birds and animals

The Union and State governments have acknowledged this menace and banned synthetic manja. Yet its sale and use continue rampant and unchecked.

On 23rd June, software entrepreneur Mallikarjun K H was riding his scooter in the busy Adugodi area when he hit a manja kite-string stretched across the road. He got serious injuries in his neck and hands. Thankfully, he was able to receive immediate medical attention.

In other instances, a Pune woman died when her neck was slit by a sharp string, a month after a 32-year-old Jaipur man lost his life, also to manja.

Schools will reopen soon. It is horrifying to think of innocent children getting injured or dying due to lack of enforcement. A week ago, a child in Bengaluru suffered 70% burns when his kite’s manja connected with a high tension cable. His family is now struggling to meet hospital bills. This is why we have petitioned the managing director of BESCOM too. Besides leading to electrocution of kite-fliers, manja has also caused grid failure.

This year, a wildlife rescuer Sridhar fell from a height of 30 feet while rescuing two birds trapped in manja. It was 6 months before he could walk again, after surgery and rehabilitation.

Let’s also take a moment to think about the thousands of birds in Bengaluru that get entangled in manja string everyday, leading to slow and agonising death. No living thing needs to suffer such torture. Imagine if a thousand people were cut by manja thread and were hanging from trees. Would we not take this issue more seriously?

injured owl
An owl injured due to manja. We Cubbon Park

The government has done the right thing by sternly banning sales and possession of manja. Since it continues to harm lives, it’s time to ensure that actual enforcement matches up to the government’s orders.

Wish list to save lives from manja

To save lives and suffering, we ask the government to issue the following directives:

  • Government of Karnataka must enforce the ban on the sale of nylon thread/synthetic thread/thread coated with synthetic substances for kite-flying. Other states have done so, whereas not a single jail term is recorded in Karnataka as per our knowledge. In Telangana, anyone who sells or stores the hazardous threads receives punishment of up to five years imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh. If any humans or birds are harmed due to the use of Chinese manja, a punishment of three to five years imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 10,000 would be imposed on perpetrators of the offence. Similar punishments should be strictly imposed by Govt of Karnataka for manufacturing, selling and transporting synthetic manja threads.
  • Urgently set up a Joint Action Task Force of Forests, Police, BBMP, KSPCB, BESCOM etc., to collectively and strongly enforce this ban. The task force should canvas for on-ground volunteers and whistleblowers. A media blast and press conference is essential.
  • The government should institute a compensation mechanism for those affected by manja accidents; children, vehicle drivers, kite-fliers and others affected, whether by injury, amputation or death. Evaluate insurance for rescuers.
  • The State police and other stakeholders should be informed and trained to assertively enforce and control this cruel practice. Public needs to be educated too. Many in the government are also unaware of the tough law.
  • A manja helpline should be set up as in other States, to report offences.
  • Make an example of offending sellers and fliers by enforcing publically a punishable offence (with fine) to buy, possess or use nylon thread/synthetic thread/thread coated with synthetic substances for kite-flying.
  • BBMP officers should be mandated to investigate, check and report compliance and cancel licenses of violating shops immediately. BBMP should not issue shop license to kite shops without KSPCB and KAWB approval.
  • Publish the accredited list of kite shops that have been certified and checked to sell biodegradable and certified cotton manja.
  • We request the government to set up 2-3 safe kite-flying areas in each district, monitored by an enforcement marshal.

We have all respectfully waited long enough. Orders have come from the environment ministry, pollution control board, and most recently National Green Tribunal (NGT), and supported by the Supreme Court. There can be no reason other than indifference towards human and animal life and loss of revenue that is allowing the status quo to continue.

We categorically state that we support the traditional culture of kite flying, but given the tragic losses we see, we insist on responsible kite flying. Only if the government of Karnataka resorts to strong action and enforcement will we be able to stop the senseless killing and maiming of innocent human and animal victims. Surely that is not too much to ask.

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