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'Free for All'Chicken Delicacies at Old Delhi fest

Chicken dishes returned to Meena Bazaar, the 17th century Mughal market in Old Delhi, Sunday when delicacies prepared from 5,000 kg of chicken were up for grab - all for free.// This festival was organised by the Poultry Federation of India (PFI) for over 5,000 people to overcome the scare of bird flu. Popular dishes like chicken biryani, fried chicken and fried eggs were part of the menu.

Around 5,000 kg of chicken, 400 kg of rice and 5,000 eggs were used to prepare these dishes by expert cooks.

Chicken delicacies, in most of restaurants and hotels, have been out of the menu ever since the bird flu broke out in the country last month.

"I did not know that a chicken festival was organised at the market. I saw so many people eating chicken and so joined in," said Shazeb, a software engineer who had come for Sunday prayers at the Jama Masjid.

"They are not going to charge anything for the food," said Mohammed Sharif.

"We had stopped eating chicken but will soon start because I think it is now safe to eat."

"It is a Rs.300 billion industry in the country and we are facing huge losses for the past few weeks," said Shyam Kumar, secretary PFI. He said similar festivals would be organised in ten different places in the capital so that people can start eating chicken.

Kumar said the first festival was organised in Andhra Pradesh capital Hyderabad last week to with over 20,000 people being invited for the feast.

"Today we invited 5,000 people but we expect a lot of uninvited guests because more would try to join the feast. We are prepared for them," said Kumar.

"The dishes were absolutely delicious and I am taking two plates of biryani home," said Parveen Kapoor, a housewife who lives in the old city.

"As soon as I came to know about the festival, I invited all my friends," she said.

"I am not aware of any flu scare but just came with others to eat these delicacies which were offered for free," said Salim, a daily wage earner who stays near the Jama Masjid.

Several officials of the health and animal husbandry department were among the invitees.

"We want people to start eating chicken again. There is nothing to be worried," said P. Hota, health secretary.

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