Almost every family in Sunil Kisan Nagar, a colony of 5,000 residents in Nalasopara (east), has at least one member who has been bitten by a stray dog.
Last week, Divya Bhondave, 6, and Karishma Bait, 12, were bitten by a stray dog in the same neighborhood. Divya was going to a nearby shop when the dog bit her on her thigh, leaving the toddler bleeding. "The same dog then bit Karishma after about 10 minutes. It was trying to bite other people but we shooed it away," said Vijay Desai, a local.
As you walk down the dusty chawl-lined lanes of the locality in Nalasopara, a small town north of Mumbai, stray dogs can be spotted around every corner. "We are scared to send our kids out to play," said Poonam Bhondave, Divya's mother.
"Nalasopara alone has around 4,000 dogs," said Kanti Jain, trustee of Karuna For Animals, a non-government organisation, in Virar. The single primary health centre in Nalasopara, the worst effected sub division of the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation, keeps a ready stock of anti-rabies injections. "We get 30 to 40 dog bite patients every month," said Dr Dipti Gaikwad, who holds charge of the primary health centre in Sopara village.
According to the Thane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the menace of stray dogs has become a serious health problem for the area that falls under the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation.
"The dog sterilisation centre in Evershine Nagar was closed down earlier this year. The corporation said it did not have funds to run it," said Shakuntala Majumdar, Thane president of SPCA.
Local corporator, Rajan Naik, said the corporation was trying to get a private agency or NGO to run the animal birth control centre. However, municipal commissioner, Kishore Borde, contradicted Naik's statement. "Are the corporators running the corporation? We have dog sterilisation and dog catching centres," claimed Borde. When asked to give the address of the centres, Borde refused to share the information.
According to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Amendment Rules (2009), municipal bodies must have an Animal Birth Control Monitoring Committee, which should meet at least once a month to monitor the sterilisation programme.
The Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation does not have a monitoring committee.