As US President Barack Obama comes calling, the focus of the security officials are not confined to possible terror attacks but also stray dogs and monkeys. Security agencies have sought the help of civic authorities to rid New Delhi of stray dogs and monkeys before Obama lands to take part in the Republic Day celebrations.
“During his stay in the national capital, the American president will visit Rajghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi,” says a senior official of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). “There are a large number of monkeys in Rajghat. To prevent any untoward situation in such places, we will catch as many animals as possible. The captured monkeys will be sent to the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located in the southern edge of the city.”
A survey conducted by MCD officials in 2009 revealed that there were more than 2.72 lakh stray dogs in the city. Right now, the number is estimated to be 3.5 lakh.
Although the government is running sterilisation and vaccination programmes, an estimated 20,000 people die from rabies every year in India, over a third of the global total. In Delhi, the government runs six sterilisation centres to curb the growing population of stray dogs.
Many horror stories of stray dog menace have been reported from Dwarka, Asia’s largest sub-city.
“Stray dogs have become a nuisance, especially in residential areas,” says Annie Matthew, a resident of Dwarka. “It is difficult to move out at night for the fear of stray dogs.”
Adds fellow resident Satendra Singh, “Life has become full of pain. In the morning, joggers are forced to carry a stick or stones with them to shoo the dogs away.”
Residents of Dwarka have written to the Delhi Police about the stray dog menace in the area. But the problem is not limited to Dwarka.
“Scared residents are now moving out of their houses with sticks in hands to guard themselves against stray dogs,” says Vikram Sharma, a resident of Sarita Vihar in south Delhi. “Parents don’t allow children to play alone in local parks. Residents are fed up with the constant barking of stray dogs day and night. At times, the stray dogs even enter our houses.”
Since January, 9,707 cases of stray dog bites, including 17 fatal ones, have been reported from areas that fall under the North and East Delhi Municipal Corporation. More than 2,400 cases were registered with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
“We have prepared a comprehensive sterilisation programme for controlling the population of stray dogs,” says Manish Gupta, commissioner of South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations. “There are around 1.5 lakh stray dogs in south Delhi. We have six sterilisation centres, which are capable of sterilising 12,000 dogs per year.
“To increase the number of sterilisation centres, we have been approaching the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for the past three years to provide us more land. But the DDA has not replied to our pleas. However, ahead of President Obama’s visit, we will try to sterilise as many stray dogs as possible.”
Gupta adds that the civic body will achieve 90 percent of its target in three years. “We will do a census by colour coding male, female and sterilised dogs,” he says. But we need to upgrade our infrastructure to achieve the target.”