Guwahati, Saturday, March 28, 2020
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Need to maintain food supply chain for vagrants, street dogs
AJIT PATOWARY

A homeless man being given food in Guwahati on Friday. – Photo: Samarendra Sarma
 GUWAHATI, March 27 - Though the countrywide lockdown aims at saving precious human lives by breaking the chain of spread of coronavirus, it is perhaps posing a threat to an important area of our social environment in a concealed manner by disrupting the food supply chain for vagrants, street dogs and many other creatures. There is a decision on the part of the administration that the vagrants would be shifted to vagrant houses/shelters during the 21-day lockdown period. However, some vagrants are seen still roaming the streets even in this capital city, let alone other places of the State.

Since there is no well-crafted system to feed these people and the creatures roaming the streets of our urban and rural areas, this point needs urgent attention of the administration and the civil society for the purpose of evolving a sustainable solution to this problem, said advocate Bijon Kumar Mahajan.

According to Mahajan, the stray dogs living in the Judges’ Field-Latasil areas are facing an acute problem in getting their food. There was a system in the Judges’ Field-Latasil areas to provide the stray dogs with waste food, including leftover bones of chicken, collected from the restaurants and hotels. One Mitul Talukdar voluntarily engaged himself in this job for the last about 15 years. Talukdar also spent his hard-earned money to purchase biscuits and other eatables to feed these dogs.

Some people, including some autorickshaw operators also used to feed the stray dogs roaming the streets in Panbazar and Latasil areas. But, with the lockdown in force, no one is there now to provide even a crumb of bread to these creatures.

And with the lockdown in force also in the Ugratara Temple, the geese there are finding it hard to sustain themselves. These birds are facing starvation. Thus, a glorious part of the city’s Jorpukhuri area ecosystem is facing a threat to its existence.

Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi once said that the greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals, but so far no Indian law is comprehensive enough to deal with the issues linked with the animals, irrespective of their being the wild, domestic or street-roaming ones.

There is a Supreme Court of India directive in a case {SLP (Civil) No 11686 of 2007 in the matter of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) Versus A Nagaraja and Others}, which stated interalia, that AWBI and Governments should take appropriate steps to see that persons in charge of care of animals take reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of animals.

The apex court in the same judgement passed on May 7, 2014, also said, “Parliament, it is expected, would elevate rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many of the countries around the world, so as to protect their dignity and honour.”

It is the general feeling of several leading personalities that since several NGOs are working in the area of animal welfare, they should come up to help the stray animals, including street dogs and the geese of the Ugratara Temple. The authorities of the temple are not in a position to supply leftovers of prasad to the geese since it is also under the purview of the lockdown.

The veterinary wing of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) should take the lead and act as a coordinator in this matter, some of them said.

These leading personalities have made a similar appeal to all concerned to extend their help to the vagrant population too.

It is learnt that the social welfare department has made arrangements to keep 33 vagrants in four night shelter homes located in different parts of the city. These vagrants were shifted from the Sukreswar Temple area on March 24. Some more vagrants are expected to be shifted to the shelter homes.

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