(Mr. Javaid Malik, 38, was born in Srinagar. He did his schooling from the Burn Hall High School, and completed his 11th and 12th grades from the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. After his graduation from the Madras University, he completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication from the Manipal University. Javaid has worked for various Srinagar based English language dailies since 2001. He joined the Greater Kashmir staff in 2005, and is now the Editor of the on-line edition.)
Hundred Dog Bites a Day and Counting in Srinagar
Sheikh Qayoom, IANS
Srinagar: Every dog seems to be having his day in the Jammu and Kashmir summer capital. The stray population of the canines in Srinagar is over 100,000 and the daily incidents of dog bite are assuming alarming proportions.
"If the government still shies away from its responsibility to bring the canine population under control, we will poison dogs in our locality. It is better to be in jail for killing dogs than be bitten and mauled by them," said Zaffar Ahmad, 42, a resident of the Batmaloo area.
Doctors at the SMHS Hospital say the number of people reporting with dog bites is already over 100 a day.
"The number of patients reporting with dog bites at the hospital has reached over a hundred per day," Mudasir, a doctor who treats dog bite cases at SMHS Hospital, told IANS.
Mudasir also said the majority of patients reporting dog bites are children and they have been turning up at the hospital with serious injuries.
"I was carrying my sister's one-year-old baby when a group of dogs attacked me in the Nowhatta locality. The dogs bit me in three places. Thankfully, the hue and cry raised by people saved the baby," said Nasreena, 19.
Ironically, dog pounds constructed in the city to isolate the canines are lying unoccupied. These pounds were constructed at Tengpora Bypass at a cost of Rs.900,000.
"As far as the population of stray dogs in the city is concerned, it is over 91,000. Dog bite cases are reported regularly from different parts of the city and the situation is alarming," said G.N. Kasba, commissioner of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), told IANS.
The municipal authorities and other government agencies are helpless against the growing menace as there are strict laws against dog extermination.
"Strict laws are in place to protect the dog population and given Srinagar city's situation, these laws are definitely anti-people," said Javid Shah, a local television producer who lives in the Lal Bazaar area.
"There is every form of protection available to the ferocious looking packs of dogs on prowl, but no laws for us. It has become dangerous for students to move out for tuition in the mornings and evenings. Going to a mosque is also unsafe, especially before the sunrise and after the sunset. What kind of animal love is all this?"
Before the strict canine protection laws came into force, local municipal authorities used to selectively administer poison to keep the dog population under control.
"It is against the existing law to administer poison to dogs. Our stocks of dog poison have been withdrawn long ago," said another official of the SMC.
Lots of surplus food available outside the security force bunkers and camps in the city and other places in the valley are also cited as a reason for the explosion in the stray dog population.
"Security forces, especially during the peak militancy years, encouraged the packs of stray dogs around their camps as these would enhance the watch and ward around the camp," said Abdul Majid, 56, a resident of Karfali Mohalla.
A local had last year claimed he could help the authorities relocate the stray dog population from the city.
Although Khurshid Mir is a trained pest control graduate, he claimed to possess the expertise to drive stray dogs away from populated areas and even "sanitize areas so that stray dogs do not enter them".
Mir's claims were not taken seriously by the authorities although he got instant media publicity after being labelled the 'Pied Piper of Srinagar'.
"I have recently put my methods to test at one of the private hospitals in the city and it has worked. No stray dog will enter the premises of this hospital as long as my pest control methods are employed by its administration," Mir told IANS.
Whether the 'Pied Piper of Srinagar' sold a pipe dream to the city fathers or could really help the 1.3 million traumatised residents of the city, one does not know. For, his claims were never tested.
DOGS, DOGS EVERYWHERE
Amidst scores of children falling prey to canine bites in Srinagar the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Viva, an NGO, came up for hearing before the High Court earlier this week. Srinagar Municipal Corporation submitted the status report and informed the court about the steps being taken to start sterilization of stray dogs in the City. There were five lawyers pleading the case for canines and only one represented the humans. Detailed news stories done by M Hyderi in Greater Kashmir about the dog menace have been stirring the subject consistently. Hyderi has highlighted how dangerous dog menace is, but it seems that his attempts have failed to wake up the government, and the people who seem to be in the deep slumber. Let’s hope they wake up before dogs barge into our homes.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (SPCA), pleading the case of canines have been maintaining that “sterilization” is the sole solution to the problem. Top lawyers are fighting for the rights of dogs but none of the lawyers seems to be interested to plead the case of humans. The President of the High Court Bar Association (HCBA) Mian Abdul Qayoom had recently admitted that dog menace is deadly. He had expressed his desire to fight the case personally if somebody comes forward with a complaint. It is strange that despite HCBA making tall claims about it fighting for the rights of Kashmiris it is waiting for someone to come up with a complaint. Why doesn’t HCBA raise its voice against the canine menace? If journalists can come forward why can’t lawyers.
There were rumors that five lawyers representing canines are getting a handsome amount as fees from AWBI and SPCA. On the other hand people are not ready to spend much on the lawyers to plead the case of humans.
If people in each mohalla make a committee and decide to plead their case against the dogs they can hire topmost lawyers. We need to understand that canine menace has made our children vulnerable and they can be mauled by these dogs anywhere any time, and many such cases have been reported till date.
People need to wake up and look for practical solutions. They can file PILs, launch awareness campaign and hold protests. It can put government in a tight spot as government cannot book people under Public Safety Act (PSA) for asking it to save them and their children from the wrath of dogs.
The government has been claiming that sterilization is the sole solution to the problem, but experts have expressed reservations about its benefits saying by the time 40 dogs would be sterilized, 400 more will be born..
Recently Minister of State for Home, Nasir Aslam Wani had revealed that there are 91,110 dogs in the Srinagar city alone and steps are being taken to sterilize canines. If steps are being taken to sterilize dogs then why is their population increasing? It seems someone needs to tell the people at the helm that our children have to walk through lanes and by lanes to reach to their schools every day. Who is going to take care of them. Government needs to wake up and address the problems faced by the masses. Revealing figures is no solution. More needs to be done.
“From January to March 2012 over 1600 cases of canine bites were registered at SMHS Hospital run Anti Rabies Clinic (ARC) in Srinagar. The dog bites have broken all previous records with almost 80% increase in the cases within a year. From 4230 cases reported in 2010, the number swelled to 7257 in 2011. The actual figures could be even higher as this data pertains to cases administered at the ARC in Srinagar alone. There’s another record about the dog bite cases as most of the cases were Category-3 Bites, considered deadliest,” Greater Kashmir reported on April 12, 2012.
People who claim to be so called animal rights activists need to answer one simple question. When any wild animal becomes a man eater he is killed, then why dogs can’t be killed when they pose a threat to human lives, especially children.