The way things are, very soon, Kashmiris might have to go without their daily diet of news with the first cup of kehwa. A growing population of canines with a penchant for a violent game of chase has created panic among newspaper hawkers, affecting circulation.
“Every day I have about a dozen dogs running after my cycle,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, 30, a hawker in the old city. “While I have got away with punctured tyres, some of colleagues have been badly mauled by these dogs.”
Srinagar is infested with some 100,000 stray dogs—a dog for every 13 residents— estimates J&K’s community medicine department.
Ahmad has been in the profession since 1999, a tumultuous period of conflict in the state.
“I kept going despite facing the wrath of protesters as well as security forces during my work. But this is taking a toll on my psychology. I always carry a big bamboo stick with me to chase the dogs away,” he said.
“The fear of getting bitten has affected our work and customers are complaining of late distribution. How can I tell them that dogs are the reason? They will mock me,” said another hawker from Batmaloo on the outskirts.
From 2005-2010, 20,644 dog-bite cases have been registered in the city’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital alone. Nearly 2,250 more cases were registered till August last year.
But instead of culling the dogs, Srinagar Municipal Corporation has decided to sterilise dogs to keep the growing number of canines in check due to uproar from animal rights activists.
Last year, the corporation was asked to construct around 1,800 ponds for dogs in the outskirts of the city. However, the process has faced obstacles as locals at many places objected to the construction of ponds in their areas.
“I have a question to all those animal activists. Will a dog stop biting after sterilisation? I humbly appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to get us rid of this menace,” Ahmad said.