Kashmir's Dogged Troubles
The challenges of managing civic equilibrium can be far more daunting than one imagines. While we focus on larger expenditure issues, there are cases where economically backward regions have to reckon with near Dickensian situations that might seem irrelevant in the larger scheme of things but yet capable of causing considerable hardship to ordinary people.
Danielle Collaco researched the interesting problem of stray dogs in Srinagar following a cue in a newspaper report.
Most of the numbers are based on secondary reports and are to be precisely authenticated. But the problem is surely large and perhaps unsolvable for a long time.
But the problem is surely large and perhaps unsolvable for a long time. A High Court ordered Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) census of stray dogs shows that there are around 91,000 stray dogs roaming the streets of Srinagar.
When ordered to do something about this problem, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation estimated that Rs 900 crore ($200 m) would be needed to build dog pounds to deal with this canine population boom. Srinagar is the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. There is even a Facebook page called 'Sterilize Dogs in Srinagar'. Here are figures from just one hospital, the SMHS Hospital in Srinagar.
(Source: Anti Rabies Clinic SHMS)
SPR Source: GreaterKashmir.com
The Pied Piper
In February this year, Khursheed Ahmad Mir, known as the ‘Pied Piper’ said that he could take care of the stray dog menace by making them run out of the city and never return. Mir, an Agriculture Graduate with an MBA degree has been known to rid many cities of animal overpopulation with methods that are still a mystery. The ‘Pied Piper’ quoted a fee of Rs 20 crore [Rs 30 lakh for each of Srinagar’s 68 wards] to get rid of the dogs. His proposal obviously wasn’t accepted.
In August this year, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir ordered the SMC to come up with dog pounds to deal with the canine over-population. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation submitted a proposal for the dog pounds. According to the Municipal Corporation, the construction of the pounds will require Rs 900 crore and 312.5 acres of land. It has also stated that it will need Rs 98 crore ($21 m) annually to maintain the dog pounds.
The SMC has meanwhile begun constructing the Shuhama Dog Pounds. The Municipal Corporation has already spent over Rs 50 lakh. The government however, hasn’t approved the Rs 900 crore proposal. The money that’s being used has come out from the Municipal’s own resources; money that was otherwise meant for construction of drains and other civic facilities. The construction is coming up on land provided by the SK Agriculture University of Science and Technology at its campus in Alasteng. The pounds are being constructed on a pilot basis.
According to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation Regulation of Animal Birth (Dogs) by laws, the SMC is obligated to provide infrastructure to deal with the stray dog population in a humane manner. The corporation is supposed to provide the stray dogs with shelter, dog catchers, and satisfactory infrastructure. So, in order to keep up with its obligations, the SMC will build about 1,800 pounds, each with 50 kennels. The pounds will be equipped with separate kennels for males and females. These projects would require 30 teams of 3-member dog catching teams with equipment. They would need around 17 dog catching vehicles, 3,600 care takers each who would look after 25 dogs. Moreover, there would be 1,800 cleaners and 360 night watchmen.
News reports state that in February this year, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation had arranged for their staff to receive training on the art of catching stray dogs by a team from the United States.
It’s a tough one. In contrast, last year, the J&K government had allotted Rs 141.5 crore on Rural Development, Rs 313 crore on Agriculture and Allied activities, Rs 303 crore on Irrigation and Flood control. The table below has key heads of expenditure.