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Bhim, Bruno and co: Meet the watchdogs of Indian parliament

The handlers and the dogs work in batches in Parliament, with one batch even doing the graveyard shift.

india Updated: Jul 09, 2019 12:29 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Parliament security,Delhi,sniffer dogs
Security personnel and sniffer dogs stand to check the budget papers that are unloaded from a truck, at Parliament House, in New Delhi, India, on Friday, July 5, 2019. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)

Bhim is a graduate, lives in air-conditioned accommodation in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, a stone’s throw from parliament building, where he works, has a great health plan, and can look forward to a great retirement plan in a few years, when he finishes 10 years of service to the nation.

That may sound like a cushy life, but it isn’t — and not many can do what Bhim or his colleagues do.

Bhim is a sniffer dog who is part of the security detail at Parliament. He lives with six other serving dogs including Bruno and one retired dog (Firoj).

The dog squad was formed as part of the overhaul of Parliament’s security following the December 13, 2001, terror attack. Its members are no ordinary dogs. They are trained at the National Training Centre of Dogs, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, a facility that comes under the Border Security Force. “All our dogs undergo a six month intensive course and become graduates of NCTD. The handlers too undergo this training. If the dog or its handler fails the exam, they have to go through the course all over again,” said Sandeep Mittal, joint secretary of parliamentary security.

On a recent July evening, at the bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi, the dogs are awaiting their evening meal. All eight sit and wait patiently; placed on the ground before them are bowls containing the meal (chicken, milk, rice); their handlers give them the command (each has a handler) and they start eating.

The meal is prepared in the in-house kitchen, and to dietary specifications (including the weight of the chicken and the volume of milk). There is also a treatment room with a resident pharmacist. The kennels themselves are large and air-conditioned, and also maintained at a comfortable level of humidity.

Once they are done eating, it’s time for the evening constitutional. Indeed, the dogs have a fixed schedule — for grooming, walks, meals, and, of course, their duties.

“If our animals fall ill, we take them to the best facilities for treatment. They are given best medicines too. When a dog passes away, his last rites are performed with all the honour that a soldier deserves,” adds one of the handlers who asked not to be named.

The handlers and the dogs work in batches in Parliament, with one batch even doing the graveyard shift.

Before each Parliament session, the dogs do a through check of all incoming material— and there’s quite a lot of it given the level of activities in Parliament.

“Before the session, we also sometimes bring sniffer dogs from other agencies, such as BSF or the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have faith in our dogs but it’s just that we want to do another round of checks by another set of professional dogs,” said another handler, who too asked not to be named.

While the dogs belonging to paramilitary forces have a different job profile and are required to be more aggressive, the sniffer dogs work in a VIP environment in Parliament and are trained to be friendly, obedient, and able to detect explosives.

“We don’t have a breed that is naturally very aggressive as Parliament is a place with many VIPs. We have to be sure that the dogs don’t lose their temper or bite someone,” said the second handler.

All handlers are seconded from various agencies to the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

The dogs are bought only from very reliable breeders. The parliamentary security branch also times any new purchases with the availability of training slots at NTCD, which are always in demand.

From a puppy to an efficient sniffer dog protecting the highest temple of democracy, it’s a dream run for man’s best friend.

Lok Sabha officials said the sanctioned strength of the squad is 10 and that the vacancies will be filled soon.

First Published: Jul 09, 2019 07:21 IST