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Mohammad Gulzar (48), a resident of Nai Basti, Jamia Nagar, was a small time horse cart rider, until a few months ago. He earned enough to feed his family. But a rare disease to his horse Glanders affected his livelihood badly. After wandering for days in search of work, he now works as a laborer, hardly managing to garner two meals a day.

In the wake of rapid spread of Glanders, an infectious disease that primarily affects horses, donkeys and mules – but gets transmitted to people who come into contact with the infected animals- the Delhi government decided to notify the entire city as a controlled area banning the entry, exit and movement of equines within the capital for three months, starting from December last year.  The move affected hundreds of cart riders like Gulzar, who were rendered devoid of their only source of livelihood.

“I had just one horse and it was affected by Glanders disease last month. Some doctors from the Delhi government took my horse away and said that the Delhi government will give me 25,000 rupees in exchange. Almost one month has passed now. I am neither getting my horse back nor any money. I work as a laborer,” says Gulzar.

Last December, the government had banned the movement of equines in the city’s west district, as a precaution after the fatal Glanders disease had affected seven animals at the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre in Raja Garden.

This move has also affected the construction sector as it has become difficult to ferry the construction material. Narrow lanes became hurdle for moving construction through vehicles in congested localities.

“Earlier with horse cart the work was proceeding fast but now since the laborers are doing this work themselves, it takes more time and more cost,” said Hamid Hussain, a builder.

There are around 3000 horses in Delhi and hundreds of people depend solely on these animals for livelihood.

Glanders is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Primarily affects horses. It also affects donkeys and mules and can be naturally contracted by other mammals such as goats, dogs.

According to Dr Jitender Gaur, head of the veterinary department of the Delhi government, “It is a very dangerous disease, those who work as stable workers or those who have equines must take some precautions like for example, they should give food to their equines separately. Delhi government will give 25,000 rupees for each horse which is found positive, it is not sufficient but it will help to make their livelihood again,”

Astonishingly, although being susceptible to falling prey to the disease there are no precautions taken for people who are involved in this trade. “This disease transfers from animals to humans. Although they take away our animals but what about us?” asks Aamir, a horse keeper, who also runs a horse cart.

“Glanders is a deadly bacterial infection of the equines that can also affect humans. We took samples from people who work with equines but no one was found positive. If the situation remains the same then we will again take samples from the equines and also from the people working in this field,” said Dr Gaur.

Despite the government’s efforts, the disease has currently spread to more horses, the number rising from 44 in January to 50 now.

Azam Abbas , MCRC Jamia Millia Islamia

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