However, anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) is available, which is administered in four doses, costing around Rs 600-700 per adult patient. HRIG (human rabies immune globulin), an anti-rabies vaccine made from human blood, is much costlier than the former but is preferred for sensitive or allergic patients.
If one fails to get these medicines at government hospital, one is taken for a ride by private players. One could spend as much as 20,000 for the vaccination at private hospitals. “I was attacked by a dog while returning from office. It was a severe injury, hence I rushed to private clinics. Each of them had different rate for the same injection, as if they were selling some luxury product. Finally, I got free treatment at the government hospital,” says Satyam Dwivedi, a law student in south Delhi.
The ars injection has its own complexities. It is highly recommended that only those hospitals which have emergency facilities should give ars to patients. “Several patients are allergic to equine ars. We conduct a sensitivity test by administering a diluted form of ars. If the antipatient is sensitive or allergic to ARS we have to rely on human serum or re-conduct the tests,” says Dr Nikita Mathur. Sensitive patients are left to their own devices as government hospitals always run short of human serum.
The stats with rml Hospital shows the rising number of dog bite cases over a decade. “Cases are increasing with every passing year. Our records suggest that a decade back annually 4,000 dog bite patients were treated, which has gone up to approximately 5,000,” says Dr Meeta Jain, in charge of rml’s dog bite section.
The terror of stray dogs is seeing an unprecedented rise. In areas like JNU campus, AIIMS colony and Kidwai Nagar, where animal lovers or activists affiliated to some animal cause NGO reside, the situation is more complex. On one hand, civic bodies face resistance from these animal lovers; on the other, the locals are forced to live in an environment of fear.
Ashok Kumar, a PHD student at JNU, was mauled by dogs in his own campus. Sharing his pain, Kumar informed that many students in JNU don’t allow eviction of dogs from the campus even after more than 100 students have been bitten by the strays.
Safety is a casualty in AIIMS residential colony. “Though it appears a trivial matter, we live in constant terror. It’s impossible for pedestrians or cyclists to move within the campus late in the night. These dogs hound us. A man from Maneka Gandhi’s NGO, People for Animals, feeds them and over period of time their numbers have drastically increased,” says Prakash Oraon whose father never leaves the house without a stick for a night walk.
Sterilisation is being touted as a stable solution to this menace but there are serious doubts about its impact. Even doctors who handle victimised patients believe that sterilisation is not sufficient. Dr Bhardwaj points out, “Sterilisation can help in population control but it can never prove a solution to this struggle. Ferocious dogs must be kept in an enclosed area. Only larger policies and guidelines from the government’s end can prove fruitful.”
While sterilisation does not appear to have alleviated the situation, one awaits the court’s order to settle the question of whether human rights are larger than the animal rights. Sameer, a 17-year-old boy from Chandosi (UP) who got severely attacked by a stray dog in his first few days in Delhi has no qualms about his stand. “These dogs should be killed. Our own safety comes first,” he says.
Dr Meeta Jain, on the contrary, believes that increasing human population has left no peaceful abode for dogs. Provoked and unprovoked actions from both ends lead to these attacks. “On a regular basis, we see several cases where dogs attack patients while they are boarding their cars.” Also, attacks by pet dogs too are showing a rising trend. While the essential debate on human rights vs animal rights, lack of infrastructure and lethargic government policies continues, residents of national capital Delhi are forced to live under a reign of terror.