Quite the most charitable construct that can be placed upon the handling of the chicken deaths in West Bengal and the very real risk of food poisoning is that the government has woken up late.

To say this is not to be alarmist; only to underline the Chief Minister’s verbal demarche to the Secretary, Animal Resource Development, at the administrative meeting in Bolpur on Wednesday.

Are traders operating in cahoots with the administration of the districts now grappling with the avian affliction? For Mamata Banerjee was remarkably explicit on the fact that the department had “suppressed” the chicken deaths at Baduria in North 24-Parganas.

In the net, the dead birds are reaching the retail market, and thence to the dining table of restaurants and homes… with no questions asked. Apart from the departmental head, the CM has laid the blame at the door of the District Magistrate and SP as well.

The alleged culpability is suggestive of a degree of callous indifference at the official level, one that has been exploited to the hilt by poultry traders.

For the past few days, rampant death of chicken has been reported in the poultries of Baduria and Arambagh in Hooghly district.

And the meat has been sold to restaurants in Kolkata, prompting the KMC to initiate an inquiry into the matter.

The bare facts point to a well-coordinated racket in food adulteration, one that has been in operation with scant regard for public health, let alone food safety.

It thus comes about that the dead chicken are being administered an injection allegedly by traders to preserve the “rotten meat” which is sold to eateries and the markets.

The fiddle, injurious to the chicken as much as humans, has been thriving for the past eight months, if a report in this newspaper is any indication.

The unscrupulous traders are assured of a ready market, most particularly in Barasat, and in Kolkata as well.

The fact that chicken-deaths have assumed almost endemic proportions in a swathe of rural Bengal needs urgently to be probed.

The KMC’s essay towards action comes horribly late in the day. The test to determine the presence of formalin ~ a chemical substance ~ in samples of the meat that has been collected, ought to have been conducted much earlier.

The civic body’s alibi that the test is a “long process and cannot be done in a day” is not impressive.

Having been a mute witness to the developing crisis in food safety, the KMC has put its shoulder to the wheel only after the Chief Minister articulated her concern over the chicken-deaths, consumption of meat of the dead chicken, and the impact on consumers. It can’t all be left to her; those down the line must also do their jobs.