Badminton Life

Indian Government Refuses to Budge on Bird-Flu Shuttlecock Crisis

Indian government authorities are sticking firmly to their guns over the avian flu-prompted ban on shuttlecocks made in China, despite the Badminton Association of India (BAI) showing safety certificates from several countries.

BAI president VK Verma said he sent a letter to the Indian government with endorsements from Germany, Switzerland and the healthy ministry of Hong Kong, certifying that the shuttlecocks are safe.

However, Pradeep Kumar, of the government's animal husbandry department was quoted in the Indian media as saying: "The ban on importing shuttlecocks from avian flu-infected countries was imposed in February 2004 and is renewed every six months.

"BAI should have made alternate arrangements. They can import shuttlecocks from European nations. We can't compromise the bio-security of the country. The ban will continue."

The bird flu outbreak in China is the cause of the problems. Although India imports thousands of shuttles from Japanese manufacturer Yonex, they are actually made from the feathers of geese in China and Taiwan.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) warns that the feather follicles of birds may contain the H5N1 virus and could be a potential source of infection. Also, the droppings of infected birds tend to contain large amounts of virus which remain infective for at least three months.

In his correspondence to the government, Verma warns that Badminton World Federation officials are threatening to move the Indian grand prix tournament to another country if the situation is not resolved.

He also affirmed that the feathers are heated under 70 degrees C for 25 minutes and then chemically treated before they are inspected by the health department in Hong Kong, which has higher standards of safety than China.

Verma said German and Swiss health reports indicate there is no chance that the H5N1 virus could survive during the manufacturing process of shuttlecocks.
The government, though, said the WOAH was still investigating the processes involved in disinfecting the feathers and only after those are completed can its stance on the shuttlecocks change.

The shuttlecock crisis has already hit Indian badminton hard, with the BAI forced to cancel national training camps in Goa and Chandigarh. They wanted to use Indian-made shuttlecocks but the plan was abandoned because of the product's low quality and insufficient numbers at such short notice.

Verma complained: "Abandoning the national squad's training camp ahead of the Thomas and Uber Cup qualifiers was a huge setback. The Hyderabad Grand Prix will be the last qualification tournament for the Olympics. The world governing body has done a great favour to India by including it in the Olympic qualification list. Indian authorities should take a re-look into the ban."

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