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Mass dog culling: Does Kerala want such barbaric politicians as its leaders?

TS Sudhir
TS SudhirSep 29, 2016 | 15:31

Mass dog culling: Does Kerala want such barbaric politicians as its leaders?

In July, the visual of a medico throwing a six-month-old dog off the terrace of a building in Chennai shocked the country. The duo - the student who threw the dog and his classmate who shot the video - were suspended from the college and later fined Rs 2 lakh each by the MGR University for the offence.

The students agreed to pay the penalty in order to ensure they could complete the MBBS course.

But animal rights activists have filed a petition in the Madras High Court that the two would-be doctors should undergo psychiatric mapping and counselling. They say as professionals who would be engaged in taking care of patients, they are expected to be kind and caring. The act of throwing Bhadra, as the dog was later named, violated every ethic in the book that doctors are meant to follow, the petition said.

On Monday, politicians in Kottayam in Kerala put Chennai in the shade. Activists of the youth wing of the Kerala Congress (Mani group) killed eight stray dogs, hung four of them on a pole and carried them in a procession through Kottayam town. They then dumped the carcasses in front of the post office, garlanded a photograph of Maneka Gandhi with slippers and asked the authorities to send the bodies to the Union minister's office in New Delhi. They were angry with Gandhi for having criticised the manner in which individuals were killing dogs in Kerala.

Crass just acquired a synonym. Kerala Congress (Mani).

If the Chennai incident is taken as a benchmark, why should the youth activists of Kerala Congress (Mani group) be let off with just a case booked against them? God's own country forbid, if these leaders come to power in Kerala, can we expect them to show responsibility and empathy for the suffering masses? Are these the kind of leaders Kerala needs?

The problem is that in Kerala, there is no frowning upon this kind of barbaric behaviour by large sections of civil society. Most people in Kerala are fed up with cases of dog bites - from 88,000 in 2013 to over a lakh each in 2014 and 2015. This year, from January to August has seen 51,000 cases of dog bites.

The Kottayam episode is proof that chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's word carries no weight. Only a couple of months back, he had posted on his Facebook page that there will be no illegal killing of stray dogs in Kerala.

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Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan. (Photo credit: PTI)

The problem is that successive governments - both led by Oommen Chandy and Vijayan - have not been able to control the dog bite problem in Kerala. They have chosen to look the other way, letting panchayats and individuals take the law into their own hands. No solution to the problem has been forthcoming - both from the government and the animal rights activists - resulting in illegal killing of dogs in many parts of Kerala.

When the killings were first reported last year, animal rights activists reacted to the situation with an online campaign "Boycott Kerala". The intention was to hurt Kerala Tourism, the backbone of the state exchequer. Newton's third law of motion kicked in.

Industrialist K Chittillappilly and social activist Jose Mavely stepped in. Mavely who started the Street Dog Eradication Committee last September offered Rs 500 to any one who killed a stray dog while Chittillappilly sat on a 24-hour long fast this February to highlight the issue besides offering a grant of Rs 5 lakh to the Committee.

The problem on the ground is that there is little understanding of what needs to be done. Animal activists are seen as the villains of the piece as they are critical of inhuman killings such as these. But when there is no reduction in number of cases of dog bites, there is pressure on the government to do something. All the administration does is to catch the strays, sterilise them in order to control the population, estimated at 2.5 lakh in Kerala, and release them back into the same habitat. But that has not stopped cases of dog bites.

Even Kerala's bureaucracy is not convinced with the suggestion to sterilise. Biju Prabhakar, when he was collector of Thiruvanthapuram, home to 8,000 stray dogs, alleged in February that vaccine companies are the sole beneficiaries of the ban on killing stray dogs.

On the ground, the need is for animal activists and the government to have a dialogue. Killing is clearly not the solution as only a more ferocious dog occupies a vacant area when a friendly mongrel is killed. It is for activists to suggest ways to prevent dog bites instead of living in denial and accuse Keralites of making up stories.

Realising that dogs are a good way to gain currency, parties such as Kerala Congress (Mani) have stepped in. The party is down and out, ever since KM Mani was accused of taking a bribe of Rs 1 crore to allow reopening of bars. Which is perhaps why Mani has put his money on dead dogs to give him a new lease of political life.

The youth wing members of the party claim that they identified the dangerous canines before killing them. One wonders what qualification any of them possessed to be able to identify the dangerous dogs in Kottayam.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written to Mani, asking him to provide for psychiatric counselling for the youth wing members of his outfit and expel them. It has pointed out that past experience has shown that those who exhibit violence towards animals, often show a similar tendency towards fellow human beings. It is time Vijayan injects fear of the law, especially with these political activists promising a repeat episode if dog bites continue.

Last updated: September 29, 2016 | 17:12
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