A City Gone To the Dogs

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In its last session in Jammu, the Legislative Assembly agreed to have the discussion on the menace of stray dogs in J&K. The Assembly allowed the introduction of the independent legislator Engineer Rashid’s bill seeking empowerment of rural and urban local bodies to initiate measures to restrict the population of stray dogs and even “kill them in extreme cases”. The Bill provided for empowering officials of the municipal corporations and municipal committees, besides members of the Panchayati Raj institutions to restrict population of the stray dogs, and also kill them in extreme cases after seeking permission from the concerned Tehsildar. Making a passionate appeal for the passing of the bill, Rashid said the government could “get rid of the stray dogs, if not the AFSPA”. Rashid’s concern wasn’t misplaced. The canine figures for Srinagar are shocking. 

As per the survey conducted by the NGO Human Society International, there are 48,949 stray dogs in Srinagar alone This means that there are 350 canines per sq km of the city. Even, as per the survey of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation there is one stray dog for every 13 people. And considering that a stray dog gives birth to 14 pups, about 3.5 lakh pups are born every year in the city. This has created a dangerous situation in Srinagar localities, where packs of dogs prowl the streets in the day and bark through the nights. A few days ago, residents of Khanyar in downtown city raised alarm over the growing population of stray dogs in the locality. So did the residents of many localities around Eidgah, who have alleged that authorities dump the canines from the VIP areas in their localities. Two persons were bitten by the dogs near Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Badu Bagh, Khanyar last week. This has created fear in the localities. Many people say they have stopped going to morning and evening prayers for fear of being mauled by the dogs. And the people whose jobs oblige them to return late in the night to their homes are scared to enter their localities. Similarly, children are afraid to go out in the streets to play. There could hardly be any other place in India where canines have acquired such a powerful influence in the lives of people – courtesy the state government doing precious little to change the state of affairs. 

 Over the years, Srinagar Municipal Corporation has announced a series of measures to curtail the canine population of the city – for example, incarcerating them in pounds, or sterilizing them –  but to little effect on the ground. And this is because none of these plans have been carried to their logical conclusion. But as the research has proved, of all the means to curb the canine population – from killing through of creation of pounds to sterilization – the last has been found to be the most effective. But for this method to produce results, the government will have to sterilize around 80 percent of the dogs, which makes it an ambitious enterprise. This may take time but it will make a real difference in the long term. But as the situation stands, the government lacks a sense of urgency to tackle this menace. People want action. And it is time that the government treats the canine issue on par with other civic challenges facing Srinagar.

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