March 2. 2024. 2:29

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India begins to face its problem with stray dogs

India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has summoned New Delhi’s municipal authorities to appear before it on Friday after two brothers, aged five and seven, were mauled to death recentlyby stray dogs in a city suburb.

In its notice issued on Monday, the commission said the siblings were attacked by a pack of stray dogs in two separate incidents 48 hours apart last weekend in a crowded slum in South Delhi.

“In view of the sensitivity of the matter, the commission considers it appropriate to issue you [Delhi’s municipality] summons to physically appear before it on March 17th along with an action taken report on the incident” the child protection rights body.

India is home to perhaps the world’s largest population of street dogs, officially numbering over 62 million.

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According to the Indian Journal of Medical Research some 17.4 million people were bitten by dogs each year across urban and rural areas, resulting annually in about 21,240 rabies cases. It is estimated that there are 18,000-20,000 deaths from the disease every year, accounting for 36 per cent of global deaths from rabies.

“As rabies is not a notifiable disease in India and most deaths [from it] occur in rural areas where surveillance is poor, it is widely believed that this figure [of rabies cases] may be an underestimate” the Journal of Medical Research said.

For generations Indians have co-existed peacefully with stray dogs, treating them with compassion and kindness, as decreed in its many religions such as Hinduism, which proclaims that all living creatures are God’s creation and need consideration.

More recently, urban municipal bodies and village councils were guided by constitutional and statutory provisions that say it is a fundamental duty of citizens to display benevolence towards all animals.

India’s supreme court also has ruled that street dogs have a right to live and has recommended a sterilisation programme to control their numbers.

The court said if violent and aggressive street dogs present danger, they should be moved to state-run shelters and pounds. If no other course is available, troublesome dogs could be culled.

Such judicial decrees, backed by animal rights activists in cities, small towns and villages have, over the years, resulted in little action against the unchecked proliferation of stray dogs who, in numerous instances, ended up endangering entire localities.

Meanwhile,residents in Vasant Kunj, where the two infant brothers were killed, berated local municipal officials for ignoring the street dog menace in their area for years.

“At times we wonder whether we are living in an urban jungle infested with wild animals, or in India’s capital, which the government is plugging as a smart city,” said Amit Cowshish.

“Packs of vicious stray dogs daily hold hundreds of people in our extended neighbourhood to ransom, making all movement around it a hazardous venture,” he said.