It was during last seventies that the city people started to move towards the peripheries of Srinagar, which were mostly covered with paddy fields or orchards. Though a Master Plan was approved for the future growth of the city and zonal plans were also prepared for a few areas, yet it was not implemented for one reason or the other. It involved demarcation of properly planned internal road network with provision for services like drainage, sewerage, parks, schools, health centers, mosques, temples, play fields, recreation sites, graveyards, cremation sites etc. Perhaps the Govt. was short of funds for investment besides having lack of political will, the plans could not be implemented. Instead the local land brokers and property dealers emerged to sell the land in patches, leaving narrow unplanned lanes with no space to accommodate surface drains or garbage dumping sites. Those days there was a very thin population of dogs around, however the sound of jackals would resonate during night hours. With the increase in migrant human population from the city centre, the population of dogs increased abnormally as truckloads of surplus dogs would be brought from police/army/village habitations and unloaded in thinly dog-populated suburban areas, which have got multiplied substantially over the years and have became a cause of serious concern of local public, who fall victim to frequent dog bites. The incidents have increased recently as dogs find little to eat in absence of garbage dumps due to improved collection system of SMC. However in view of the legal protection of the street dogs, their population is on the rise along with their increased frequency of attacks on pedestrians. It has become impossible to walk during the night hours, as the local group of dogs seem to be on guard not to allow any intrusion in their territory. Even attending the prayers in mosques in the early mornings and late evenings has become risky. The proposal of sterilization of dogs by SMC too seems to have run in fiasco. Hospitals bear witness to the recently increased incidents of daily dog bites. In our area of Bachpora, Ilahibagh, recently a school going child, a female teacher and a beggar were bitten raising a strong public resentment. The authorities need to give serious thought to this vexing issue and come up with immediate solution. In my visit to gulf country, I found there the total absence of the street dog along with that of the garbage dumping site or a beggar or even the frightening appearance of a police man on a road side.
Here I would like to reproduce the article on the harmful effect of dog bites that appeared in India today.
Rabies stalks India with its 30 million stray dogs
India’s cities and towns are home to about 30 million stray dogs.
In 2012, the WHO estimated that India accounts for 20,000 rabies cases each year, though the government and experts have disputed this figure.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory body under the Environment and Forests Ministry, is struggling to rope in NGOs and animal welfare groups to implement the recently-approved National Rabies Control Pilot Project. But due to dearth of funds and outdated policies the government’s two-pronged programme to control their numbers through sterilisation and to prevent the spread of rabies has been hanging fire.
One major handicap is the Centre’s failure to revise the cost of sterilising dogs – the amount doled out to NGOs is the same as it was a decade ago and experts contend the funding is unrealistic.
The health ministry recently approved the implementation of the pilot project in Haryana for mass sterilisation and vaccination of street dogs. The plan is to implement the project in other states if it proves successful in Haryana. However, so far only two NGOs have responded to government tenders.
“We have been begging the Central government to provide us with funds for carrying out a dog census and massive vaccination and sterilisation drives but all we have is a small pilot project in Haryana,” said Dr R.M. Kharb, chairperson of AWBI.
“We had been seeking expressions of interest from NGOs and other animal welfare organisations (for the project in Haryana) since last year but we got only two responses after two deadlines for the open tenders passed,” he said.
Animal welfare experts said the cost of sterilising dogs had increased with time but the Centre is sticking to a decade-old estimate of Rs.445 per dog. At some places like Delhi, funding for sterilisation was hiked to Rs.770 per dog but even this is meagre, experts said.
Kharb said it was proving difficult to rope in NGOs to carry out surveys and sterilise dogs. Many NGOs working with the government withdrew because the basic cost of their work was not covered.
“We have been working for many years to curb the menace of street dogs and rabies. In a few states, animal husbandry departments cooperated with us. Sikkim will soon be the first state to become rabies-free while close control has been done in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan,” said Kharb.
According to several reliable estimates, the total number of street dogs in India is between 25 and 30 million. But the over 10-year-old scheme for dog sterilisation and vaccination has an annual budget of only Rs.3.5 crore.
“This is a huge challenge – controlling this large population with such a small budget. Moreover, rabies control is not only about sterilising and vaccinating dogs because not all dogs cause rabies. It takes a lot of effort to control the disease,” said Kharb.
“The dog has to be caught in a humane manner. The sterilisation surgery should be done by an expert because a wrong surgery can hurt the dog.”
There is no official Indian data on rabies deaths though the ongoing Million Death Study reported there were 12,700 symptomatically identifiable rabies deaths in the country in 2005.
The Dreaded Disease
What is rabies?
Rabies is a zoonotic disease (a disease that is transmitted to humans from animals) that is caused by a virus. The disease affects domestic and wild animals, and is spread to people through close contact with infectious material, usually saliva, via bites or scratches. Dogs are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths. The rabies virus is usually present in the saliva of the rabid animal. Once inside the body, the virus affects the central nervous system. It develops in two stages. The first stage lasts up to 10 days during which the patient will show symptoms like headache, fever, decreased appetite, vomiting and general malaise, along with pain, itching and tingling at the wound site. In stage two, the patient will have difficulty in swallowing, disorientation, paralysis, and coma. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), rabies continues to kill thousands of people in India each year, more than in any other country.
If bitten by a dog, one should immediately and thoroughly wash the wound as soon as possible with soap and water for approximately five minutes. The first dose of rabies vaccine should be given as soon as possible after exposure.
One vaccine for prevention and five injections after exposure to the disease. One dose of human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.
Cost of rabies injection
Municipal hospitals in the national Capital charge Rs.100 for rabies vaccine. However, the treatment may range from Rs.1,000 to Rs.2,000 in private hospitals.
— Sonya Ghosh, founder of the Citizens for the Welfare and Protection of Animals says: “The government created a mess in controlling the dog menace in Delhi. There are 74 medical units for animals with the government that were handed over to the animal husbandry department but there are only 35 doctors. These units can easily sterilise at least 20 dogs a day but they are underutilised.”
— Meera Bhatia, a lawyer who represents NGO Common Cause says: “Cases of dog bites in India are increasing. The dogs should be kept away from streets because they stop people from going for walks. Government has largely failed in controlling the population of stray dogs because their sterilisation programme didn’t work. Dogs are still multiplying on the streets.”
Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili (Retd. Chief Engineer)