An eight-year-old boy who slipped into the Jhelum near Lasjan on Tuesdaywhile fleeing an attack by a pack of ferocious stray dogs was brought out dead from the river on Wednesday. This is the second death caused by stray dogs in Srinagar within a week, and the city sees no respite in sight from a menace dogging it for decades. Lucky dogs, indeed, the canines, that is. Only if the phrase were applicable to humans.
The Municipality says Srinagar alone has a stray dog population of over 2 lakh. Experts deem a dog population of around 5000 normal for a city the size of Kashmir’s summer capital, particularly in view of the canine role in scavenging et cetera. That leaves a gargantuan 1,95,000 hounds loose in the city to terrorize, maim, and even kill.
Officials privately admit that castrating stray dogs, as suggested by Maneka Gandhi, is a cumbersome process, and that the best option to have an optimal canine population would be to cull. On January 15, 2012, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation decided to poison 3000 stray dogs, but for reasons best known to its authorities, the plan never took off. On March 13 the same year, the Municipality announced that it would put down 100,000 stray dogs in the coming months. But again the plan got held up. The dogs kept multiplying, and humans continued to suffer savage attacks.
As per official data, the SMHS Hospital registers 4000 dog bite cases every year. There has been a staggering increase in such cases since 2005 when the hospital received 4311 victims.
Over the past two decades, animal rights activists have managed to prevent the Srinagar Municipal Corporation from poisoning stray dogs. A journalist who agitated the matter repeatedly was shown a letter from Maneka Gandhi threatening dire consequences.
A woman one thousand miles away has managed to cripple the state government. Those running the administration must hang their heads in shame. The impotent government needs a high dose of performance-enhancing steroids to set itself into motion. Even a recent judgement by the Mumbai High Court allowing poisoning of stray dogs (in case they pose a threat to human life) has failed to inspire authorities in Kashmir.
The irony is that the drugs worth Rs 20 lakh have already been bought from outside the state to put down stray dogs, but, unknown reasons, remain unused. The Srinagar Municipality owes an explanation to the city. It is morally responsible for every death caused by stray dogs in the city. Now that the Municipal Magistrate has directed municipal authorities to put stray dogs down, the latter should make haste. It must act now, or face contempt.