From enquiring about method of dog catching to the process of their sterilisation – the country’s top-notch animal rights activist and member parliament Maneka Gandhi is in Srinagar to get a firsthand account of the animal birth control programme, launched after growing number of dog bites.
"I am not here for dog welfare but human welfare. I was pained to see gory pictures of dog bites. So I decided to check ground situation," said Gandhi in Srinagar, which witnessed severe protests against growing number of dogs this year.
Srinagar touched an alarming level of dog-human conflict this year when 73 people were mauled in dog attacks in 24 hours on April 23-24. An official figure of dog bites in the last five years is more than 25,000.
Gandhi, however, warned the state authorities against any attempt to kill dogs overtly or covertly. "Dogs are not enemies of human beings. In several states, dogs proved boon in preventing diseases like plague," said Gandhi, while blowing bugle of danger of increasing rat population.
The animal rights activist argued that rat population can only be controlled by maintaining an optimum level of dog population.
"In a year, rats can produce 32,000 babies. A female rate gets pregnant after every six weeks. It’s these dogs which ensure the rat population is contained," said Gandhi.
The state government on Sunday had to come up with a PowerPoint presentation before Gandhi to assure her the measures taken to control dog population had become inevitable.
Kashmir’s top bureaucracy – including chief secretary Madhav Lal, housing and urban development department commissioner secretary Suresh Kumar, animal husbandry department secretary MA Bukhari and Srinagar Municipal Corporation commissioner GN Qasba – joined a session with Gandhi.
The authorities came up with a study saying "people of Kashmir were traditionally dog-friendly" to assure Gandhi of protection of dog rights.
On Sunday afternoon, Gandhi inspected the dog facility for sterilisation at Shumama, in outskirts of Srinagar.
"Gandhi inspected the surgery room and kennels where dogs are kept after an operation. She enquired about dog catching mechanism and dog care after surgeries," said an official on condition of anonymity.
Around 200 dogs have been sterilised at the facility since May this year. At least 50,000 dogs will go under knife in Srinagar to contain their exploding population. An official census puts the figure of dog population at 91,000 in Srinagar.
"In an average meat-eating city with bad garbage disposal system, the ratio of dogs and humans are 1:100. Even if one puts the ration on higher side in Kashmir, it can be 1:50. With this assumption, dog population should not cross 17,000," said Gandhi in an attempt to question the official census of dog population.
But the officials insist that human-dog ratio is at alarming level of 1: 13, highest in the country.