Monday, October 31, 2016

Ramesh Babu - Kerala will turn into dogs’ own country, says anti-stray campaigner

He says the powerful anti-rabies vaccine lobby is behind the chorus against the culling of violent strays...“Recently a senior IAS official wrote an article saying in India rabies vaccine business is worth Rs 7,000 crore...Kerala is their biggest market. They want strays to multiply so that their business will thrive.” 

Indias 20,847 deaths are over one-third of the world’s total - the highest incidence of rabies globally -  BBC

For almost two decades Jose Maveli, a Kochi-based activist, has been rescuing abandoned children and helping them piece together their lost childhood but lately he has been in the news for the wrong reasons. The 66-year-old activist has floated a statewide movement to eradicate stray dogs and is facing eight cases under the prevention of cruelty to animals act. He was arrested and released on personal bail in seven of these cases.

After the death of a 90-year-old man, who was mauled badly by a pack of violent canines in Varkala in south Kerala last week, he visited the area and that triggered a mass killing of 40 street dogs. When the police rushed to arrest him angry locals foiled it. But the mounting cases have failed to deter Maveli, whose Jana Seva Sisu Bhawan is home to 250 destitute children. Aggrieved people are calling him regularly to seek his advice. Last month, an alumni association in Kottayam district’s Pala even gifted him an air gun “in recognition of his meritorious service.”

“We killed many cattle when foot and mouth disease broke out and two years ago in Kuttanad (central Kerala) and lakhs of ducks were culled in the wake of bird flu threat. No cases were registered against anyone then. Why are not dogs killed when they pose a grave danger to people?” he asked indignantly.

While animal lovers call him a ‘demon Maveli’ - Maveli was an asura king - he said a true philanthropist was one who loves human beings and animals equally. “Animal-lovers call me a mass killer. It is not true, I have never killed a dog. I love my pets and reared dogs till recently. What can we do when monstrous strays attack small children and elderly people?” he said adding dog menace was not a recent phenomenon and he has been warning about this quite some time.

According to a survey conducted by the state animal husbandry department, there are around 9.23 lakh domestic dogs and 2.70 lakh strays in the state. Government figures say four people were killed in the last four months in stray dog attacks and 701 people, including 175 children, were injured across the state. This year, 53,000 people were treated for dog bites in government medical college hospitals alone.

According to the police, his movement is encouraging people to take the law into their hands but Maveli says the action is spontaneous and he has nothing to do with it. He said last year’s attack on a three-year-old in Kothamangalam really forced him to sit up and think. “Hailing from a poor family, his face was totally disfigured in stray attack and he underwent a couple of surgeries. Authorities and animal-lovers never came for his help. Had he been from an affluent family it would have been a big news,” he said. “Since most of the local bodies don’t have any system to control multiplying canine population, poor people are at the receiving end. Ten persons died this year and 35,000 bite cases reported in last four months alone,” he lamented.

Animal lovers blame poor waste disposal methods of the state for the proliferation of strays. There are only about 1,500 veterinarian surgeons, but the state needs at least double that number to effectively carry out its sterilisation programme. Since a majority of the local bodies don’t have the infrastructure for animal birth control, quick, but ineffective, measures are relied upon. Most are yet to switch over from traditional sterilisation methods to the modern keyhole surgery, a standard procedure followed globally. Veterinary doctors say if keyhole surgery is performed, a dog can leave the hospital in two days; other methods require at least four days of recovery, burdening an already inadequate infrastructure. As a consequence, culling strays has become commonplace.

He said the powerful anti-rabies vaccine lobby is behind the chorus against the culling of violent strays in the state. “Recently a senior IAS official wrote an article saying in India rabies vaccine business is worth Rs 7,000 crore. True, Kerala is their biggest market. They want strays to multiply so that their business will thrive,” he said, alleging the vaccine lobby was funding some of these groups that want to protect even the violent dogs.

He said besides bites, strays were responsible for at least 30% of accidents involving two-wheelers in the state. Millionaire businessman Kochouseph Chittilappilly, who triggered an organ donation drive in the state after he donated one of his kidneys to a poor patient, has pledged support to Maveli. Chittilappily, the chairperson of V-Guard Industries Ltd, staged a series of protests including a three-day fast to highlight the issue to the authorities.

Last week, Animal Welfare Board of India board member Anjali Sharma criticised both for instilling a fear psychosis among people. “If the situation continued like this, God’s Own Country will turn into dog’s own country in no time. I will continue my work till authorities take drastic steps to save poor children and elderly,” he said adding 70% of bite victims belong to poor families.