Pick-and-Choose

Neglected for over three decades, the problem of proliferating stray dogs has surpassed crisis proportions many times over, and continues to exist partly 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 huge 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 for the tainted buck. The burning problems of the city may as well have never existed. It was 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 – years ago – was the result of a series of concentrated and particularly savage attacks by stray dogs being treated to media headlines. But there has been no corresponding activity since, even on several replays of the dogbites-find-media-space rigmarole. Either the canine fraternity is governed by some mysterious force, 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 government’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. Had the government been even remotely connected to common sense, 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 private and personal benefit. When it comes to the public good, it suffers from the numerical equivalent of dyslexia.