India Interior

On the wings of popularity

Usha Rai | Updated on November 16, 2018 Published on November 16, 2018

The people of Wardha, in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, elected the nilpankh or Indian Roller as the city’s icon

No flights of fantasy, this The election process was conducted with ballot boxes and there were online voters too Usha Rai   -  Usha Rai

How about cities adopting birds as their icons and helping to protect them, a la Wardha?

While humans are elected to panchayats, municipalities, assemblies and Parliament, now our feathered friends are also undergoing an election process in some places.

As a trend in Maharashtra, some of the cities have begun to choose the bird they would like to adopt as their icon and put in place conservation steps to protect it. The bird, in turn, will represent the city that loves it the most.

On Independence Day this year, after 54 days of hectic campaigning, the people of Wardha, in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, elected the nilpankh or Indian Roller, gracing the skies and trees with its electric blue, as the city’s icon.

The election process was conducted jointly by the Bahar Nature Foundation and the Municipal Corporation of Wardha, complete with ballot boxes. There were even 3,621 online voters, represented largely by overseas residents for whom Wardha is their home town.

Vying for the top spot to represent Wardha city were four other contenders — the white-throated kingfisher, the black-winged kite, the spotted owlet and the coppersmith barbet. In all, some 51,267 votes were cast and the nilpankh was a clear winner, polling 29,865 votes as against the 6,950 votes of the kingfisher, which is blessed with a similar blue plumage. The black-winged kite got 4,886 votes, while the spotted owlet and the barbet 4,805 each.

According to Dilip Virkhade, coordinator and secretary of the Wardha city bird election, the Indian Roller was considered more Indian than the other competitors. Noted ornithologist and wildlife conservationist Maruti Chittampalli announced the final winner.

Wardha is the second city of Maharashtra and the first in Vidarbha to elect its bird icon. The first was Satwantwadi in Konkan two years ago. Other cities of Maharashtra like Jalgaon and Umerkhed were on track for electing and showcasing the city’s favourite bird.

The entire exercise generated a lot of interest in nature and birds and the need to conserve them. There were hoardings announcing the unique bird election, wall paintings, bird watching walks, bird photo exhibition, cycle rallies and talks on ‘know your city’s birds’.

Wardha’s MP, mayor, collector and top police officers promoted the event. Children as well as senior citizens participated in the polling. A statue of the Indian Roller is to be erected at a vantage point in the city.

The writer is a senior Delhi-based journalist

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Published on November 16, 2018
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