Throwing Stones at the Government

General V K Singh’s ill-conceived remark that ‘if someone throws a stone at a dog, the government can’t be held responsible’ is obviously a grave insult to the Dalit children who were burnt alive. However, there’s also evident a careless attitude towards animal rights and other overarching problems associated with it.

Let’s discuss them a bit.

Not many of us really think much about stray dogs. We don’t know or care what they eat, how frequently they get food, where they sleep, how they manage heavy monsoons or scorching summer heat. Although they manage to get food from garbage bins or at tea shops or butcheries, they hardly get any water to drink. Even those who throw biscuits or a piece of meat don’t think it is necessary to give them water to drink.

We see them only in slums or near people who live on the edge of life. That may be because these people generally accommodate these dogs, but it’s also because that these areas are filled with filth and mounds of garbage. In Mumbai alone, around 500 tonnes of garbage lay uncollected and fester through every night. Stray dogs live, socialise, reproduce and die around these garbage bins. When they mate or are in labour or in deep agony due to diseases such as rabies, they attempt to bite people. And people throw stones at them to escape from these bites or to generally ward off this danger.

Stray dogs are the manifestation of human failure. India leads the world in terms of stray dog population, and, consequently, the number of rabies-related deaths as well. It is estimated that in Mumbai alone, every year, around 80,000 suffer dog bites and around 20,000 die of rabies. Charles Rupprecht, Chief of the Rabies Programme in Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, claims that India was the birthplace of the rabies virus.

Because of our general apathy, even the pedigree dogs, which we buy as pet dogs, are often abandoned into the streets. Breeders either kill or abandon the unsold puppies into the streets and we don’t have any control mechanism or active legislation to control these breeders. Consequently, these pedigree dogs too compete with the strays for food and livelihood.

Many prescribe rounding up and killing these dogs as the solution. Some bizarrely even suggested ‘exporting’ them off to China where dogs are a delicacy in some parts. This may not really solve the problem because, in the absence of dogs, the rats and bandicoots would take over the garbage bins. The problem really is not these dogs. It’s our festering garbage. Simply look at our cities and ask why we don’t see stray dogs in the streets of Poes Garden or Boat Club.

Therefore, it is essential that we worry about the stray dog issue. As a nation resolving the problem of dogs is essential to make good progress in improving our general quality of life and in controlling and containing contagious diseases. It would also make our streets much safer for children and elderly. It is not merely the question of talking about animal rights or ethical treatment. Someone throwing a stone at a dog has this ‘Dog/ Garbage/ Rabies/ Safe Streets/ Death’ cycle in the background.

Our central and state governments have the responsibility to seriously look into this problem. Creating clean, garbage free streets, reducing the stray dog population in the most humane way possible, looking for ways to improve our sensitivity towards animal welfare are some of the things they should think about.

Finally, to conclude, even if we were to look away at this despicable comparison of dogs with Dalit children, General Singh’s comment is incorrect and inappropriate. Every stone thrown at a street dog is really the stone thrown at this society’s apathy and its government’s irresponsibility. Collectively, the society and the government, have the important role to stop these stones from being thrown at those hapless creatures.