Srinagar, April 11 (IANS) Every dog seems to be having his day in the Jammu and Kashmir summer capital. The stray population of the canines in Srinagar is over 100,000 and the daily incidents of dog bite are assuming alarming proportions.
"If the government still shies away from its responsibility to bring the canine population under control, we will poison dogs in our locality. It is better to be in jail for killing dogs than be bitten and mauled by them," said Zaffar Ahmad, 42, a resident of the Batmaloo area.
Doctors at the SMHS Hospital say the number of people reporting with dog bites is already over 100 a day.
"The number of patients reporting with dog bites at the hospital has reached over a hundred per day," Mudasir, a doctor who treats dog bite cases at SMHS Hospital, told IANS.
Mudasir also said the majority of patients reporting dog bites are children and they have been turning up at the hospital with serious injuries.
"I was carrying my sister's one-year-old baby when a group of dogs attacked me in the Nowhatta locality. The dogs bit me in three places. Thankfully, the hue and cry raised by people saved the baby," said Nasreena, 19.
Ironically, dog pounds constructed in the city to isolate the canines are lying unoccupied. These pounds were constructed at Tengpora Bypass at a cost of Rs.900,000.
"As far as the population of stray dogs in the city is concerned, it is over 91,000. Dog bite cases are reported regularly from different parts of the city and the situation is alarming," said G.N. Kasba, commissioner of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), told IANS.
The municipal authorities and other government agencies are helpless against the growing menace as there are strict laws against dog extermination.
"Strict laws are in place to protect the dog population and given Srinagar city's situation, these laws are definitely anti-people," said Javid Shah, a local television producer who lives in the Lal Bazaar area.
"There is every form of protection available to the ferocious looking packs of dogs on prowl, but no laws for us. It has become dangerous for students to move out for tuition in the mornings and evenings. Going to a mosque is also unsafe, especially before the sunrise and after the sunset. What kind of animal love is all this?"
Before the strict canine protection laws came into force, local municipal authorities used to selectively administer poison to keep the dog population under control.
"It is against the existing law to administer poison to dogs. Our stocks of dog poison have been withdrawn long ago," said another official of the SMC.
Lots of surplus food available outside the security force bunkers and camps in the city and other places in the valley are also cited as a reason for the explosion in the stray dog population.
"Security forces, especially during the peak militancy years, encouraged the packs of stray dogs around their camps as these would enhance the watch and ward around the camp," said Abdul Majid, 56, a resident of Karfali Mohalla.
A local had last year claimed he could help the authorities relocate the stray dog population from the city.
Although Khurshid Mir is a trained pest control graduate, he claimed to possess the expertise to drive stray dogs away from populated areas and even "sanitize areas so that stray dogs do not enter them".
Mir's claims were not taken seriously by the authorities although he got instant media publicity after being labelled the 'Pied Piper of Srinagar'.
"I have recently put my methods to test at one of the private hospitals in the city and it has worked. No stray dog will enter the premises of this hospital as long as my pest control methods are employed by its administration," Mir told IANS.
Whether the 'Pied Piper of Srinagar' sold a pipe dream to the city fathers or could really help the 1.3 million traumatised residents of the city, one does not know. For, his claims were never tested.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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