Fruits Of Neglect

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Neglected for over three decades, the problem of proliferating stray dogs has surpassed crisis proportions many times over, and continues to exist solely out of the public’s long-engendered lack of expectation from authorities. It is remarkable that when the government and municipal machinery began to put its act together ten years ago, the first targets were not pressing civic issues, but a lot of window-dressing involving the use of large funds with ample scope for skimming and misappropriation. The gratification-starved system could not resist dipping hands deeply into the till at every available chance – and ensuring that the chance was available aplenty. It was not for nothing that political leaderships were in such unseemly haste to have elected municipalities at heavy expense to the public exchequer when urgent and dire issues, neglected for nearly two decades on the militancy-and-lack-of-funds pretext, were crying for attention. With predators having smelt blood in fresh finances, a host of unnecessary measures, ostensibly to signal a political shift in trouble-torn Kashmir, cropped up, purely to rake in the moolah. The burning problems of the city may as well have never existed. It is only after many quarters were sated to their heart’s content with two elected municipalities that some basic steps like regular garbage collection were initiated. Who, in this scheme of things, would have been bothered about vicious, snarling and dangerous packs of stray dogs whom the citizens of Srinagar have learnt to live with?   

 

The government’s show of urgency early this year was the result of a series of concentrated and particularly savage attacks by stray dogs being treated to media headlines. Strangely, the reports have dropped down, as has the enthusiasm of the authorities. Either the canine fraternity is governed by some mysterious forces making their savagery a periodic and phased affair, or the public watchdog practises a judicious pick-and-choose on issues to keep the masses entertained by variety. In any case, the truth would be that hospitals and other medical facilities have been kept ticking with dog-bite cases pouring in regularly. The lack of sustained media attention seems to have diminished the gravity of the situation in the eyes of the public and the government. The latter’s priorities lie somewhere else: addressing glaring problems with promptitude has little appeal when the mouth-watering prospect of instituting yet more channels and conduits for siphoning off public finances is close at hand. Otherwise, the political leadership would not have made a ludicrous spectacle of itself by pleading the high costs of dog sterilisation as an excuse for the excruciatingly slow pace of the operation and yet going in for the prohibitively expensive exercise of having elected municipalities across Kashmir. Certainly, had the government been even remotely concerned with rectitude, it would have avoided the needless and money-guzzling fountains dotting the city to provide for a speedier way of dealing with the stray dog menace. Basic arithmetic is not the strongest point of Kashmir’s political leadership: it does put two and two together but purely for its private and personal benefit, but when it comes to the public good, it suffers from the numerical equivalent of dyslexia. Otherwise, the most rudimentary calculation would have shown that engaging sufficient manpower, expertise and material for substantial and speedy canine sterilisation would not prove more expensive than a fresh corps of corporators. 

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