Since last few years, there has been an unprecedented growth in the number of stray dogs in Kashmir. The imbalance is resulting in a serious social problem affecting our daily routine, choice of our lifestyle and even religious duties. As genuine as this is, the more oblivious fact is that around 30,000 to 40,000 dog bites have been reported in the past six years, alone in the summer capital, Srinagar. May be, the figures are not known to the common people but the daily terror they face is undeniable. Numerous terrifying stray dog attack incidents are being reported every now and then. Most of the incidents from rural areas go even unreported. Considering their rising population and the attacks on humans, it can't be denied that the concerned authority has been in denial more for too long now. Whenever there is any unfortunate dog attack incident SMC at times does show some eye washing concern but the situation on ground says that they are least bothered about the challenges faced by a people on a daily basis.
At the first call for prayers in the morning, men (elderly, young, adults, kids) who prefer to offer namaz at their respective mosques often have to carry long wooden or iron rods with them. This is just to protect themselves from being attacked by a pack of stray dogs. The level of stray dogs is such that there are more dogs walking around than humans at Fajr time. The citizens of many major localities of Srinagar have started to avoid going to mosques for Fajr out of the fear of dogs. The Second lot that has to face early morning obstruction by dogs are the joggers/walkers/runners. Under this category fall women of all ages who because of their health issues or just to stay fit, have to walk around miles either in the parks or along footpaths.
They prefer to go out in groups so that they don't fall prey to stray dogs. Women who encountered dogs in an unfortunate chase have altogether left the idea of going for morning walks. Moreover, the students who have to leave their homes in the early hours face lot of tragic incidences such as being chased by dogs, almost bitten, had a run for life. The third lot are the kids. The stray dogs majorly prey on them. The undeniable reason for the shift in Kids going outside on their own, to play along with their friends in parks are dogs. No one is safe outside their own premises. It seems more valid that everyone is imprisoned in their own houses in some way or the other because of this growing stray dog menace.
Reason for this uncontainable growth in stray dog population has a lot to do with our waste management as well. Of course, dogs' dwellings are majorly the waste dumping sites which can be the neighbor's wall, the electricity pole or right outside hospitals. SMC poor waste collection and dumping is acting as catalyst for growth of stray dogs. This is being complimented even by the society at large which follows poor waste management practices in and around residential localities. The role played by authorities has always been small in terms of efforts and effects. Sterilization, dislocation and even killing could not reduce their population. Small tweaks like sterilizing a few 100 dogs can't resolve the issue. The problem is huge and demands a holistic solution. The social costs and risks posed to life are immeasurable and it's time for a public serving institution likes that of Srinagar Municipal Corporation to stand up and take up the challenge of managing stray dog population in Srinagar. The situation is severe, and the action is must.
Tuba Shabir is Guest Faculty, Department of Management Studies, North Campus, University of Kashmir.