At a time when tigers are frequently spotted around populated areas of Bhopal, it is ironic that the threat of stray dogs is greater.
And for good reason — the brutality with which a pack of stray dogs mauled a 10-year-old girl, Anushka, while she was returning home has put the spotlight on the deteriorating canine situation in Bhopal.
Despite growing fears of being attacked by stray dogs that roam the city streets, the administration appears helpless on how to deal with the situation, and the lack of inclination to tackle the problem is only making matters worse.
This is not the first such incident. Earlier this year, an eight-year-old school boy was run over by a bus while being chased by dogs in Saeed Nagar area. Another child was attacked by dogs and his head was badly mauled near Airport Road last year.
In July 2013, a rabid dog bit 15 people, included children and elderly people, on the premises of JP Hospital. In 2012, stray dogs dragged away a two-year-old boy in Sultania Hospital premises before he was rescued.
In addition to people, domestic animals too are falling prey to the canine terror. In February this, a group of about 20 stray dogs jumped into the house of Bhoora Bhai in Jehangirabad locality and killed seven goats.
On an average, between 40 and 70 people are bitten by stray dogs every day in the city and adjoining areas. Although the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) estimates that there are around 1 lakh stray dogs in and around Bhopal city, it has not been able to come up with a plan to deal with the growing dog menace.
Despite its high pitched rhetoric on creating a shelter house for dogs and other stray animals at Bhanpur for the last three years, there is no sign of it on the ground level.
When questioned about the delay, BMC officials maintain that final clearance for the project was awaited as there was some issue with the selection of the site at Bhanpur. Surprisingly, the BMC has just two vehicles and a dozen workers to catch dogs from across the city’s 85 wards.
Residents in many parts of Bhopal often complain about the menace in their respective areas, claiming that it makes commuting at night difficult and dangerous, their calls for action appear to fall on deaf ears.
Educationist Prof Zamiruddin, who lives in Professors Colony, complained that in some areas the population of dogs has not only increased, but that dogs have become aggressive as well. “Recently, I saw a documentary that wolf genes were re-awakening in some dogs, leading to their aggressive behaviour and attacks on humans, especially children. What is happening in Bhopal needs to be studied as our kids are being attacked,” he said.
Social activist Abdul Jabbar, who lives in Old City, said tigers were not killing people but the dogs were becoming the reason for a number of deaths. “This is a very serious issue as it is affecting a large number of people in the city. The government should come up with a concrete plan to check the dog menace in the city,” he said.
What the BMC says?
Speaking with HT, BMC veterinary officer SK Shrivastava accepted that the civic body could do little to curb the menace other than conducting sterilisation drives.
“We cannot kill the dogs as it is an offence under section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and a cognizable offence under sections 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code. We are sterilising them since November 2013 to address the problem in a better way in the long run. Till now we have sterilized over 39,000 dogs and the results would be visible in the next three to four years,” he said, adding that the average age of stray dogs was around six to seven years.
He added that there were two centres in Bhopal, one at Suraj Nagar and another at Raisen Road, where dogs were being sterilised. Also, the BMC has roped in Hyderabad-based NGO Navodaya Pet Society, which has two dog-catching vehicles, for carrying out sterilisations.
An eight-year-old school boy was run over by a bus this year while being chased by dogs in Saeed Nagar area
A child was badly mauled near Airport Road last year
In July 2013, a rabid dog bit 15 people at JP Hospital
In 2012, stray dogs dragged away a two-year-old boy from Sultania Hospital premises before he was rescued