Dog menace: Need special powers

Umair Haqani

One more life has been lost to the threateningly increasing stray dog menace in Kashmir Valley. The government has been doing precious little in controlling the stray dog population or saving human lives. The death of a 25-year-old youth due to a dog bite should have put the entire government machinery into action. In any civilized society it would. But this is Kashmir! The government’s inaction, even the absence of a statement on the young man’s death reduced, Shakeel Ahmad Shah of Tral, to a statistic in the long list of casualties valleyites have been suffering on account of the stray dog menace. So much for living in a democracy.

In the last five years 20639 people across the valley have suffered from dog bites, which in percentage terms makes it a whooping 98 percent of all the animal bite cases reported during the period. Most of the victims have been young children below 10 years of age. Too young to defend themselves against a menacing dog or run away to safety. But a heartless government and a helpless society merely look on as people continue to suffer.

The state government takes refuge under some court cases and the campaign by some animal rights organisation against culling, for not doing anything against the stray dog menace in the valley. Well, in Kashmir nobody questions the so called democratic government for its failure to protect its citizens. Not even the government’s failure to keep anti rabies drugs available in district and sub-district hospitals.

A top civil administration official recently announced to have roped in a little known man who claims that he will take away the stray dogs from the valley. The top official actually nicknamed him the Pied Piper as that in the Pied Piper of Hamlin, children read about, in their text books.

Such a response to a widespread problem would not even be seen in a very backward society, with scant regard for human life. Despite too many cases of dog bites the government is yet to come up with a plan to ending the menace. The government position that it is helpless is untenable. Its claims that it can neither order a cull for fear of enraging animal rights activists nor does it have the resources to take up a robust birth control programme of stray dogs for want of resources and infrastructure.

The scary government, however, forgets that this is Kashmir, where Disturbed Areas Act, AFSPA and other such acts are in vogue. Where police and security forces can shoot to kill on mere suspicion! Oh, but they only have the authority to shoot humans.  Dogs, sorry, stray dogs are just another class. Or may be the government can order, or ask, its police and paramilitary troopers to do something about the dog menace. After all they enjoy immunity from … well, everything.

The disregard of the democratically elected state government towards the life of its citizens is appalling. People deserve a better administration, which prefers its people over the stray dogs.
Well, many Kashmiris wish, if dogs were humans.

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