A group of stray dogs a few paces away from the Punjab assembly house in Chandigarh on June 28 barked occasionally and feebly, oblivious of the fact that the debate that raged inside the house concerned them. While these canines had known the contempt the passing Rottweilers and Dobermans in fancy cars had for them, they would never have imagined the masters of these pedigree dogs would bring the matter in the house. (During the debate, state revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia had said that the issue was vital as he was scared of taking his pet dog for a walk for the fear of stray dogs.)
The assembly spent an entire day discussing the menace. All other businesses were put aside. Pejoratives were garbed in practicality and put forth as out-of-box solutions. Congress’s Ajit Inder Singh Mofar who moved the resolution that the assembly recommend to the government to take effective steps to control the stray dog population said one way was to send these canines to Nagaland and China where they were in demand. While Mofar drew nationwide attention for his brilliant idea, the copyright of the idea rests with the Punjab health department which in February this year had shot off a letter to the Nagaland government, asking “under what legislation dogs were killed in that state, where dog meat was available for human consumption despite the countrywide ban on killing dogs under the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001”. Short of funds, the department had expressed its inability to sterilise the canine population of the state and hence looked for a quick fix.
The menace of the stray dogs in the state is alarming with tier 3 cities having an average population 20,000 stray dogs each. There has been a spike in the dog bites incidents, 15,500 people were bitten by dogs last year alone. There have been incidents of deaths by dog attacks and public protests against the menace are regular throughout the state. This is one side of the story. A few weeks ago, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) had sounded alarm on illegal dog fights in rural Punjab. After coming across certain pictures of dog fights posted on social networking website Facebook, FIAPO had reported the matter to Punjab police and had also announced a reward of Rs 10,000 to the person who passes any information regarding the people involved in dog fights. It is yet to be investigated if such practices have contributed to the menace.
Amid so much scare, the people had expectations when the matter finally came up for discussion in the assembly. However, Mofar’s big idea not only dashed people’s hopes in the house, it also exposed the political class’s inability to handle important public issues sensitively.
Nagaland did not react to the episode. It is assumed that the northeastern state took it sportingly and laughed the matter off like another Punjabi joke. Besides, while details of an assembly of stray dogs soon after the house debate got over or passage of any resolution therein to send the MLA somewhere are not available, the hurt the canines suffered is palpable. They barked their lungs out in the streets of Chandigarh on the following night.