Odisha Police Uses Pigeons To Deliver Letters In An Effort To Keep A Lost Tradition Alive

Technology and the internet, to be specific, has made human life infinitely easier. But it also brought along an onslaught of concerns. People have become so dependent on social media, that they would prefer virtual communication over actual human interactions. And sometimes this makes you miss the good old practices of writing each other letters and sending postcards from vacations.

But there is one practice which precedes these two that was pretty much considered extinct. Or so we thought.

Odisha police is giving new life to the age-old practice of Pigeongram. Odisha is the only state where the police force has been keeping this unique mode of communication alive.

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In association with the Bhubaneswar chapter of Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, the Odisha police put the pigeongram service to test on Saturday. According to NDTV, they flew 50 pigeons from the OUAT Grounds to Cuttack, which is 25 km away, to deliver messages of heritage conservation.

The ceremony which was attended by schoolchildren and adults alike was praised by former DGP and state convener of INTACH, A B Tripathy.

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SP BN Das said that the Odisha Pigeon Service started in 1946. The army had handed over 200 pigeons to the police personnel on an experimental basis to communicate in areas with no wireless or telephone links. The service was found to be successful and reliable when it first pioneered in the mountainous Koraput district. Hence, it was introduced to almost all the districts of the state with over 700 sturdy Belgian Homer pigeons carrying messages to assigned destinations.

SP Das added:

“For years, these dependable birds have been a vital link between remote police stations, where traditional communications failed, beating storms, disasters – and birds of prey.”

The homer pigeons have a lifespan of up to 20 years and can fly a distance of 25 km in just 15 to 25 minutes. The messages are written on a piece of paper and inserted into plastic capsules tied to their feet.

Pigeongram was extensively used during the Super Cyclone in 1999, as radio networks were disrupted. A senior police officer states that pigeon service was also the only line of communication to the marooned town of Banki during the disastrous flood in 1982.

A Facebook user Sanjib Sarangi posted a video of the Pigeongram ceremony from Saturday:

And the moment….

Posted by Sanjib Sarangi on 14 ಏಪ್ರಿಲ್ 2018

Speaking of how the practice needs to be preserved for the next generation, Ornithologist Panchami Manoo Ukil said:

“Pigeon service is an art that dates back to the Mughal days. The birds delivered messages to the harems and battlefields. This unique tradition has historical significance and should be preserved.”

A member of INTACH, Anil Dhir states that all the pigeons reached their destination Cuttack within an hour. He also added that the heritage service has generated a lot of interest among the collector’s community.

At a time when we are moving further and further away from our roots, this initiative by the Odisha police is a welcome change. With such a rich history and heritage as ours, it would be a shame for these practices to go extinct.