Swachh Bharat Must Include Removing Dog Shit Too

Published: October 11, 2016 21:52 IST
Cleanliness on the streets, organized parking, footpaths that can actually be used and are not encroached, functioning street lights and traffic signals, trees pruned, roads signs being obeyed, people using zebra crossings and more indicates the presence of a government that cares.

Another exposure which reveals the character of a place are early morning smells and sounds (if you rise before the sun does).

There are cities which start blaring very early in the morning from all possible directions. They seem to be like war cries. Perhaps to say, I am awake, why are you sleeping. Or if one is located near a railway station, airport, places of worship and more, you have had it. 

In some locations, there are emergency vehicles with sirens blaring. 

They give you no choice. Take it or shut yourself off. 

But there is an assault of a kind I have experienced most recently that I have not been able to close myself to. It is the cacophony of daily street dog fights. Or the sound of dogs fiercely chasing moving vehicles, wanting to attack riders. 

To ward off this animal assault, you have to either have the capacity to speed away or have heavy doors for homes to block out the racket.

I am an early riser. When I sit for mindfulness in the morning, I hear the fierce pandemonium of dog fights. They may be mauling or fighting to chase someone or fighting among themselves. 

When I checked with our municipal agencies on what could be done, each one complained of obstruction and interference in their work by influential and well-connected non-state actors who do not let them do their lawful duties. Which is to deliver human safety.

The Pondicherry city area alone as per our government records is reporting around 60 dog bites a day. How many go to private hospitals is not known. How many are traumatized by being chased or are suffering sleepless nights due to the noise of dog fights on the streets is not recorded. 

However, ever since we have opened up our systems of listening and responding, many victims are coming forth to express their grave concern and fear of the growing menace of street dogs and the need for the government to protect them from this.

This situation about the fear of stray dogs is reportedly not only in Pondicherry but all over the country. It is because we have let stray dogs roam the streets, even when ferocious and a threat to human safety. 

What is being practiced in piecemeal is the expensive reduction of breeding by birth control followed by returning them to the streets. It's never enough. Their numbers outnumber the scarce resources of municipal bodies.  

It is a known fact that anyone bitten by a dog is not able to forget the trauma all their life. 

When we go oversees, in developed countries, we do not see stray dogs on the streets. We do see dogs on leash and owners carrying poo bags to pick the dog shit in case the dog dirties the place. Every dog is licensed and has a collar. Here in Puducherry, as part of the cleaning drive, we are cleaning dog shit all the time, all of it to return the next day again. So much for our ODF drives, i.e. open defecation drive. Human and animal defecation has to be addressed together. 

Overseas in the developed world, everyone is exceedingly sensitive about the use of public spaces, totally contrary to the way we use and treat our public spaces in India. The latest we heard from our street cleaning workers is that they are finding it exceedingly challenging to do night cleaning because of the menace of street dogs. Now this is something to be worried about as they are on a contract to do night sweeping and can be penalised for not doing so. Hence where does one begin? 

This sensitive matter is currently being heard by the Supreme Court due to certain PILs filed regarding putting at risk human life versus status quo by non-state protectors. During the hearings, the Honourable Court has been commenting on misplaced compassion in letting street dogs roam around public places.The country awaits their final views keeping in mind cases of mauling of the old and young by stray dogs versus those who want them to remain free in their respective territories.

Puducherry needs to have its streets free of stray dogs in view of its huge influx of tourists on the beach, heritage buildings, tourist places, and key market places. With the Swachh Bharat movement, dog shit also needs to be off the streets. Grudgingly, we are cleaning that too, but it comes back again. We have to find a way out...

Pondicherry is for animal welfare by maintaining safe places for stray cattle and stray dogs where animal lovers can come and feed them. There is enough food for them, linked with hotels and restaurants who are willing collaborators. 

A clean and safe Puducherry is Prosperous Puducherry. While caring for animals, we must not compromise on human safety, that too of the vulnerable.

(Kiran Bedi is Lieutenant Governor, Puducherry. She is the first woman to have joined officer ranks of Indian Police Service. Recipient of Magsaysay Award (1994) for police and prison reforms, she has also worked as a UN police advisor. A tennis champion, she earned a PhD from IIT Delhi and is a Nehru Fellow. She's founded many NGOs and is the author of several books.)

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