Though he gets paid for his services to his clients, to earn a little more he doubles as a rat-killer by night. I am talking about Prateik Babbar in the film Dhobi Ghat. This character from Mumbai takes my mind all across to Srinagar, a city where the dog count is said to be some 80,000, as against a human population of 1.4 million.
There’s now news that ten vacancies for the post of city dog-catchers have been advertised after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the government to create dog-pounds. This, after the court feared that the dogs “will be stoned to death” by locals. Dogged by the demand of R20 crore by the self-styled Pied Piper of Kashmir, Khursheed Ahmed Mir, the government had to finally have a re-think on the issue. Hence, the headhunting exercise for career dog-catchers and the picking of the finest for the job at a talent hunt in the offices of the Srinagar Municipal Committee.
Sometime ago, I had seen a TV show, which was a ‘success story’ about a town in Africa infested with nettlesome insects that made the townspeople live in misery. The mayor stumbled on to a brilliant idea: of increasing the population of an insect-eating bird. The municipality there had bird-houses (not cages) put up in vertical rows on stakes, pillars and poles with enough bird feed to go around. They also passed a local resolution not to torment, injure and kill the birds. And sure enough, lo and behold! when the bird population swelled, it almost wiped out the entire insect menace.
They have a langur on the payroll to scare away the brown monkeys inside and outside Yojna Bhawan in New Delhi. In a town in Punjab, residents had hatched a plan to feed the monkeys something that made them infertile, which stopped them from multiplying. But thanks to that legendary force called ‘Hindu sentiments’, there were no buyers for the idea that was seen in some quarters to be anti-Hanuman.
In my village, we had a problem with monkeys for five years. They became so audacious that they started attacking women, children and even lathi-wielding men. It continued till the time the whole village stood up against them by kettling — a police technique used to contain a large, unruly crowd, gherao being a kind of desi version of it. One by one, with a little nudging, the monkeys surrendered themselves, offering no resistance, with some of them feigning being unconscious. They were taken in sacks and transported to a faraway place.
Animals seem to adapt better than food-price-affected humans. The scarecrows don’t frighten birds for long, and other creatures catch on pretty quickly. So it’s better to use animals to stave off other animals. Otherwise, you’re left with the option of some Pied Piper pretending to be an expert against pests.
( Rajbir Deswal is a Delhi-based writer )
The views expressed by the author are personal