By the way: Come and bite me, your highness

  • Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Apr 19, 2015 16:24 IST

Sadia is dead. The dog that bit her had already died. Rabies is the reason. Doctors are shocked. Animal rights activists are hiding in their homes, or otherwise visiting the dog sterilisation centres to check if the canines are being snipped with all possible caution. Human rights activists are busy with Masarat Alam’s right to raise pro-Pakistan slogans in Kashmir. The country’s ruling Sanghis, in the latest, have their knickers in a twist over the alleged killing of a calf in a village next to Chandigarh.

Yes, all have agreed that Sadia’s mother be given some money as compensation, but only after the mayor found nothing wrong in slapping the girl’s father because he was drunk, abusive, an emotional wreck, at her funeral.

Meanwhile, all of us remain at the mercy of our packs of hounds who lord over our streets; sleep in the middle of the road if they so please; chase cars as if they know what to do with it if they catch one; and bite kids, elders and pretty much anyone or anything else they wish to, depending on what catches their fancy.

Don’t bite me, dear bleeding hearts. I am only humanising dogs. It’s not my fault that it makes them look bad. Dogs are, like us, doing whatever they want to as long as there’s no one to stop them; murder comes as a part of the deal then.

Since law prohibits killing the tailwagging royalty, only sterilisation is being done to control the growth of their population. Locality by locality, one at a time, less than 200 of 10,000odd canines have been covered so far in the latest drive in Chandigarh. This too started only after a spate of dog-bite incidents, though past failures at family planning for humans and animals make one sceptical about the whole thing. Similar drives in Panchkula and Mohali are limited to sporadic claims of empanelling private doctors and NGOs.

No wonder, then, that death by rabies continues to hound us. The deadly disease has seen only 13 human survivors since 1976 across the world; just two recorded in India. Once she got rabies, Sadia basically had no chance.

Merely six years old, she was walking to a shop on a street of Manimajra when she was attacked by the dog that also bit a dozen others. A few weeks on, particularly if she had not died, it would have become just another statistical matter. You see, on an average, Chandigarh sees 20 dog-bite cases a day. Sadia was unlucky that she was bitten on her lips, face and scalp, which made her more vulnerable to rabies as the injuries were near the brain. Worse, the vaccine given to her to prevent rabies is believed to have failed in a “rarest of rare” case.

How do we fix responsibility for it? Simple solution: We just don’t. The councillors remain as useless as ever in dealing with people-related instances, unless it involves ribboncutting. And the UT administration’s babus are blinded these days by their love for the Capitol Complex, architectural tourism and other such exposed-concrete matters. Work for dog sterilisation is conveniently outsourced.

In this business as usual, besides the bureaucracy and politicians whose duty ends at visiting the victims and delivering money and a slap, those who must answer tough questions are the animal rights-wallahs. Their hearts bleed over culling of geese at the lake after the deadly bird flu threatens human lives. These ohso-sweet people are also quick to point out how dogs are mistreated, caught with nets and all that, during sterilisation drives. Some of them have already visited the new sterilisation centre of the MC to check whether dogs are being given proper postoperative care, for god’s sake.

But hardly any of them questions why the two top NGOs of the city — the faction-ridden Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and the excessively popular People for Animals (PFA) — failed to sterilise even a fraction of their beloved canines when they were given the task. A Union minister has appointed herself the Chief Animal Rights Activist of India, but her voice has seldom been heard over such failures. There is no difference, thus, between the government and the NGOs. Neither has the moral authority to question the other.

After Sadia’s death, it’s not surprising that the clamour for culling the canines is growing louder now, and people are demanding that at least the dogs be caught en masse and shifted to some other place where they can live and let live. That would take government’s commitment and muscle. It would be nice, meanwhile, if the activists too widened their concern ambit to include fellow humans and suggested something beyond preaching phoney pooch love.

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