Srinagar, Oct 9: Srinagar's dog menace, which till now has left thousands of humans wounded, claimed many lives and continues to haunt the entire population, is finally a million dollar business as the State Government has allotted the costly and time-consuming canine sterilization contract to a Gujarat-based private agency.
With this, Government has declared the Gujarat-based Humane Society of India (HSI), an NGO, as the "official implementing agency" for the sterilization program in JK's summer capital.
The Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UDD) has given a go-ahead to the HSI to start sterilization of stray packs under the ongoing Animal Birth Control (ABC) program.
The decision of handing over the project to the private agency was taken at a high-level meeting held at Civil Secretariat Srinagar on September 3, 2012, in the office of Principal Secretary H&UDD.
The meeting, chaired by Principal Secretary H&UDD, was attended by the HSI Director Rahul Sehgal and Jasjit Purewal, a member of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), among others. Greater Kashmir is in possession of relevant documents and other evidence in support of the news report.
Given the population of around one lakh and growing dogs in the city, the sterilization project could stretch for years while the deal may run in crores because each surgery costs around Rs 600 apart from expenditure on construction of facilities for dogs, again at a cost of millions.
Till now, the sterilization of stray dogs would be carried by SK University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) in collaboration with the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). While a thousand dogs underwent surgery at state-of-the art dog pound at Shuhama, the facility was constructed for over Rs one crore from funds meant for development of humans in Srinagar.
The Government said the decision to handover the sterilization project to the private agency was taken on the recommendations of AWBI.
"As per the recommendations of the AWBI, HSI will be the official implementing agency for ABC at Shuhama and Tengpora. Mr Rahul Sehgal committed to start operations at Shuhama from Oct 1st, 2012, as long as the said facilities are in place," reads a decision at No. 3 in the minutes of the meeting held vide order No. HUD/LIT/PIL/361/2011 dated 4-9-2012.
The Government has also empowered the HSI to make all business deals with regard to procurement of equipments and other related facilities. "HSI will be in charge of procuring equipment and all the supplies for the surgeries," the official documents reveal.
The million dollar expenditure on stray dogs hints that the canines are now no less than hens which lay golden eggs. Observers said killing a dog could mean end of a fortune chain. "A dog pair (male and female) gives birth to around 100 offspring in their lifespan of eight to 10 years out of which around 70 survive. This means a pair gives 70 dogs and they in turn seventy more each, much like a fission reaction," explained a vet at SKUAST Kashmir adding that the chain be looked in the perspective of expenditure on sterilization.
This raises many a question. Was this why the Government ensured safety of stray dogs? Eyebrows are being raised over the National Conference-led Government's concern, which apparently remained more concerned towards dogs than humans in the past three years as even rabid dogs were not allowed to be killed.
On May 4, 2011, following complaints of deadly dog attacks and death of some people, the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon issued shoot-at-sight orders against rabid dogs. But the orders were instantly revoked.
Earlier on March 4 the same year, the SMC vide Order No. 460 of 2011 ordered a high-level probe into allegations that some stray dogs had been killed.
On the other hand, the stray dogs continued to attack humans whereas on an average a dozen odd people fall prey to dog bites every day. While the people tried to raise voice against dog menace, the Government gagged such voices. On May 1, 2012, police used force against protesters at Lal Chowk disallowing anti-dog protests in the city where human-dog ratio could be 13:1, highest in the country.
While the people have been seeking an end to dog menace, the Government looks at sterilization as the sole solution to dog menace. A million dollar question posed by then Chief Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifullah in the courtroom remains unanswered: Will a dog stop biting after sterilization?
(TO BE CONCLUDED)