A ubiquitous menace and malice has been our fate for many years now. Streets, playfields, localities and house doors have been invaded by sprawling army of dogs and the terror and inconvenience they have unleashed is beyond measure. In a gruesome and rabid episode, an infant succumbed to dog bites in Handwara. Can we gauge the monstrosity and humongous proportions of such horrid episodes, the mere idea of which sends shivers down the spine?
But in Kashmir, these incidents are a norm now, just the dog bites by May 2022 rallying to 5,629 cases. An official from Anti-Rabies Clinic SMHS said from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2022, as many as 5,629 bite cases were reported to ARC SMHS and most of them were from Srinagar. The immediate and lethal consequence of unabated stray dogs manifests in dog bites and allied injuries, but the psychological state of anxiety while going out and carrying in heart the fear of encountering stray dogs remains unnoticed, unreported and unattended. A personal testimony may not be out of context here. While leaving for prayers at Fajr time, if I happen to spot a dog from a distance, I perspire, gain palpitations and find myself gripped in the claws of fear and anxiety.
Many friends report that dogs are a reason they prefer offering Fajr and Isha prayers at home only and even avoid coming out at wee hours, lest they find themselves troubled and chased by dogs. In the morning, when children leave for school, they are often seen accompanied by their parents till they board their buses. The reason for accompanying them being the dotting of lanes and streets by dogs. Even after taking elders along when going out and elders seen with sticks and stones in their hands, the miseries and inconveniences inflicted by dogs upon the populace seem only snowballing and gaining in degree and depth with each passing day.
Women, infants and elderly have time and again had a narrow escape literally from the jaws of dogs – those who escaped the dog bite, got themselves injured in the process of escape. During winters, when the roads are slippery and dogs on prowl, the frequency and gravity of these incidents undergoes a massive spike. Residential, commercial and even medical spaces have been claimed by dogs, not only presenting a gruesome image, but a severe challenge too. Attendants accompanying patients at SKIMS and SMHS have time and again complained about the menace and the threat posed by the army of dogs to both the patients and their attendants.
A moment of reflection is needed to contemplate that at a time when the menace has reached hospital gates and lawns, what can be the proportions of the problem at other places. Students marching to their tuition centres early in the morning, early risers who want to go out on a walk and have a whiff of fresh air, elderly who dream of going out during the day, are all indiscriminately and indefinitely haunted and subjected to perennial paranoia. The problem is too manifest to be ignored, but over the years, it has only assumed newer dimensions without any sign of respite and relief.
It is not that authorities haven’t taken cognizance of the matter – but a cognizance without action. Promises have been made, timelines laid out and exhaustive policies discussed to effectuate the rid of the menace. But a strong administrative will and a thoroughgoing strategy seems nowhere in sight. On the one hand are animal rights defenders from national front, who see every attempt to safeguard humans from canine terror as a form of infringement upon animal rights and thereby raise their voices and start a process of cyclic litigation, which cuffs authorities from any meaningful action. But every sane person will agree that dislocation from populated areas, purging hospitals, streets and other places of public interest doesn’t amount to violation of rights as it corollarily guarantees the rights of citizens and safeguards their lives. So are measures like sterilization and vaccination best suggested to control any further explosion in the dog population. We have had enough casualties, deaths and damage inflicted upon us by swarms of stray dogs. The society collectively needs to rise up to the task and seek from authorities an end to the enigma. Is it too impossible for the state with all its men and machinery in place to bring us a respite from this wrath of the Earth?
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