Monday, June 25, 2012

Stray Dogs superior to Wild Life!

Apart from the natural beauty of our environment, the most precious asset we have is the rare wild life. This includes the snow leopard, hangul, markhor, musk dear, brown bear, and among the birds the rare black-necked crane and the Bar Headed geese. Some of these species are threatened and global efforts are on to save these. Many people including Bedi Brothers have done some good work on the rare Snow Leopard in Ladakh. Black-necked crane and the Bar Headed Geese are being monitored through satellites. Kashmir’s most prestigious project was the “Save Hangul” campaign. In fact, in mid-eighties the Hangul population had crossed 800. However, the turmoil of nineties when there was a total free for all reduced the population to only 150 or so! At the present moment the number is estimated to be 250. One would have thought that the government would be very keen to protect and preserve this precious wild life. On the contrary they seem to be extra keen to save the rapidly growing stray dog population. There is talk of spending rupees one thousand crores on the well-being of these dogs posing a severe threat to the local population. Pounds in beautiful surroundings have been constructed for these animals posing a threat to human life and dog caretakers are being employed from among the unemployed youth. Compared to this the total budget of the Wild Life Department is rupees three and a half crores and it has been static for last few years. The most important asset of the wildlife department has been the wetlands. Some of these have already disappeared and others are facing extinction. These have been encroached, filled up and developed as land for building houses, shops, and other structures with impunity. The department is facing insurmountable hurdles in trying to save the rare species inhabiting our forests and higher mountain regions. They have a very meagre amount from the Central Government from the species recovery programme. In fact, the amount for entire India is rather too small. It is reported to be around seventy odd crores and the species to be saved are many. Similarly, the department is supposed to look after the man-animal conflict. Not only have they to control the wild animals attacking civilian populations near the forests but they have to pay compensation to people hurt or killed in animal attacks. Subduing a wild animal mauling civilian population is not an easy and a cheap task. Each tranquiliser shot costs eight to ten thousand rupees. After subduing, the animal has to be transported and lodged in some enclosure. There have been plans to construct proper zoos at Ramnagar in Jammu and Dachigam in Srinagar but the shortage of funds has adversely affected the completion of these. These could have been ideal public places to show case the wildlife of Kashmir and could be a good tourist attraction. In fact, the department of tourism spending hundreds of crores on Golf courses and Gondola lifts could also chip in. A zoo showcasing the wild life and birds of J & K could be a great attraction both in Jammu and Srinagar. Kashmir’s tragedy is that the high ups both in Delhi and Srinagar are enamoured of stray dogs than the precious human life or even the rare wild life. Menaka Gandhi, the greatest ever animal lover is so concerned about the well-being of the stray dogs in Kashmir that she phones the concerned officials repeatedly whether these are properly fed and looked after during sterilization. The places where the dogs are being sterilised are thousand times more hygienic and well equipped in all respects than the infamous G B Pant Hospital which has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent Kashmiri infants. Even the General heading the Animal Welfare Board is more concerned about the dog welfare than the Union or the State Health Ministries are about the children’s’ welfare! There cannot be a worse example of misplaced priorities or lopsided planning than these episodes involving the innocent human lives and rare wild animals on one hand and the stray dogs on the other. One is not so sure about the importance being given to the value of human life in Kashmir these days especially after the insistence of certain quarters to retain legislative powers giving them the authority to kill human beings with impunity. However, one could plead the case for a better deal to the rare wild life. Just imagine if only 20% of the funds proposed to be spent on the sterilisation of stray dogs could be diverted to GB Pant hospital or other similar healthcare facilities what a difference it would make? Just 1% of these “Dog Welfare Funds” could give a very welcome boost to the preservation and protection of the other animal life! Surely, the dog lovers in Delhi and Srinagar would not object to this minor diversion! Food for thought for the authorities in Delhi and Srinagar.

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