Almost all the local newspapers have come out to cover the menace of stray dogs in Bhopal. Yesterday the Times of India published a feature on the subject. That the Bhopal Municipal Corporation is unequal to the problem posed by them need not be emphasised. The Municipality has hardly ever been able to do any of the items in its charter with competence and efficiency. All of us face problems everyday of our lives because of the failures of the civic body. I, for one, find my freedom of movements restricted because the flyover that is under constructed now for months on a nearby vital square that provides an outlet to the other side of the town. In the process the roads have not only been narrowed considerably, they are also full of ditches and function as effective spine-breakers and car-wreckers. That, however, is another story.
The Bhopal Citizens’ Forum has been pursuing this matter of stray dogs with the Municipal Corporation. What it has been offered in the process are only hopes to deal with the problem effectively. When will that actually materialise is anybody’s guess. They seem to be banking on a project of Rs. 6 crore that is under formulation for taking care of the city’s stray animals. Given its level of incompetence, by the time that facility comes up the population of the stray dogs could reach 4 lakhs from the current estimated 40 or 50000.
While the practice of liquidating stray dogs has been given up as a matter of policy, the facilities of sterilisation have not kept pace with the rise in their numbers. We seem to forget that ours are Indian stray dogs and they breed just as we do – prolifically. Given the large litters that they produce, the Municipal Corporation would probably never be able to catch up on their sterilisation with its much less than adequate financial, veterinary and human resources. It will always be for it a chasing game of an unattainable target and, as reports indicate, incidences of dog-bite have already gone up and are expected to rise exponentially. The problem is also compounded by inadequacy or non- availability of anti-rabies vaccines; one tends to prognosticate that the situation will worsen in the future when hydrophobia spreads like an epidemic affecting increasing numbers of people.
Ethical treatment of our fellow-animals is understandable. But, the situation should not be allowed to get out of control like what has happened in Bhopal and several other cities. Building up of capacities to prevent explosion in the numbers of stray dogs as well as to handle cases of dog-bites, though necessary, have largely been neglected. It is not the inadequacy of funds that prevents public organisations from acting in benefit of the society, it is their wrong and misdirected utilisation and rampant corruption apart from lack of commitment to their respective jobs of municipal hands. A time may soon come when dogs on the city streets prevent normal movement of traffic and prevent people from pursuing their personal businesses with ease and facility. Already, their ceaseless barks give us sleepless nights.
Sporadic reports in the newspapers did not have the desired impact on the authorities of the Municipal Corporation. Now that the print media has got into the act in a big way with all major local newspapers giving the matter prominence, perhaps, there will be some reaction. For the moment, however, there is no functioning government and, consequently, no governance.
Incidentally, the stray dogs are posing no mean problems. Asad Rahmani of the Bombay Natural History Society reported in his editorial in the Hornbill magazine that stray dogs in protected areas have turned feral and have been preying on the animals that constitute the prey base of other bigger predators, especially the big cats. Unless controlled they might affect the tenuously maintained numbers of vulnerable wild life for whose survival enormous amounts of resources are expended.
Photo: From the Internet