According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India accounts for 36 per cent of rabies deaths that occur worldwide each year. While one can develop the disease if bitten or scratched by any rabid mammal, such as monkeys or bats, WHO says dogs contribute up to 99 per cent of all rabies transmitted to humans; and children are the usual victims.
Surprisingly, no Indian media had carried news on this magnitude of the stray dog menace in India. Rabies deaths are an incorrect metric. They overlook the number of injuries caused that do not lead to fatalities.
So, I asked, how many dog bites do we get every year?
In India, about 15 million people are bitten by animals, mostly dogs, every year and need postexposure prophylaxis. Since 1985, India has reported an estimated 25 000–30 000 human deaths from rabies annually (the lower estimate is based on projected statistics from isolation hospitals in 1985).2 The majority of people who die of rabies are people of poor or low-income socioeconomic status.3 The incidence of death from rabies in Asia is given in Figure 2.5Because rabies is not a notifiable disease in India and there is no organized surveillance system of human or animal cases, the actual number of deaths may be much higher. The latest figure projected from the National Multicentric Rabies Survey, conducted in 2004 by the Association for Prevention and Control of Rabies in India in collaboration with the World Health Organization,1 is 20 565 deaths from rabies per year.
These are the government's official figures. And they admit that these are way underreported.
Here is my question then - why are they underreported? Causing grievous injury is a crime and the city's protection mechanism should deal with this.
In Bengaluru, the official figure is 3 bites every 2 minutes. Yes, you read that right.
And the AWBI has some answering to do: (from the same article sited above)
An internal evaluation report of the Union environment ministry in 2008 shows AWBI has no guidelines for giving grants to animal welfare organisations that are entrusted with the responsibility of sterilising dogs, vaccinating them periodically and providing them shelter.
Steephen cites the instance of Japan, where only two have died of rabies in last 50 years, that too after being bitten in India and the Philippines. Japan does not allow dogs on the street. “Those which are found are put up for adoption. When no one adopts them, they are euthanised. Same is done in the US and Ireland,” he adds. While WHO mandates that at least 80 per cent of dogs need to be vaccinated annually to break the cycle of transmission, only 2.4 per cent have been vaccinated by AWBI over the past 10 years.
In the first ever intervention on human-animal conflict, an attempt is being made to tackle the monkey and dog population in MP living areas in Delhi. Nowhere else.
India has the money. We never lack money. What we lack is policy decisiveness and the willingness to understand that ABC rules were designed to fail. The only people who suffer because of the so called "Dog Lovers" are the dogs.
There are 3 policy interventions that are necessary:
1. Make animal breeding for sale illegal. It is inhuman and cruel and works against adoption of strays.
2. Create animal shelters. Make it mandatory for NGOs to create and sustain animal shelters to continue to receive govt funds. There are enough NGOs and enough private people will support if there is genuine effort. If there are qualified vets available for luxury pet spas, there are enough vets for the govt's sterilisation program too.
3. Do NOT force people to adopt colony strays. Fear of dogs is a real thing. And when there are 4 or 5, dogs WILL display pack behaviour and hunt. It is their nature. So people will be attacked. We cannot fault the dogs for their natural behaviour.
Sit back and think about it.Independence happened 72 years ago. In 72 years, we have not been able to create the infrastructure and the policy regime that allows the Indian farmer to break out of the debt trap. If anything, we are deepening their dependence on debt through this behavioural reinforcement of "Farm loan waiver required to win elections."
Let's think about it: Farming is an industry. It should be profit positive. Why does it need subsidies? Why is it so loan dependant? Does the farmer really need the loan and the subsidy?
In 72 years, and particularly under the Green Revolution, the government has been able to successfully create a nation-wide supply chain of:
A . GM/"High-yield"/ Hybrid seeds
B. Fertilisers, and
- forcing farmers to give up their traditional "inefficient" farming practices and ensuring their inevitable dependence on expensive farm inputs - fertiliser, seed, pesticide. (Ergo - Need for Debt)
BUT, we have not been able to create a nation wide network of:
A. Irrigation channels - reduces input costs and dependence on power to use the tubewells.
B. Cold Storage
- The two things that would have helped the farmer to actually increase margins, gain staying power in the market, and reduce input costs. (Ergo - Inability to earn enough to repay that debt)
Why is that?
1. It is NOT PROFITABLE to let the Indian farmer be economically viable. The minute you do that, you take away their status as the vote bank.
2. Union Carbide benefits from pesticide production. Monsanto benefits from GM seeds. Farmers benefit from cold storage facilities. There is no party donation money in that.
3. The farmers themselves find the benefits much easier than the hard work. Instead of demanding farm loan waiver, why did they not ask for subsidy for temperature controlled warehouses and transport vehicles? They all have a fridge at home. They all know the difference it will make if they release their pulses in the market when the price is high, vs if they release it when the harvest has just come.
If the farmer is able to hold on to his produce, the entire corrupt system created by the agricultural marketing industry collapses.
So, my vote is for that cold storage chain that benefits the farmers, and for a nation-wide irrigation network based on canals and natural river flow OR allowing the farmers to go back to traditional water harvesting methods which are not energy intensive. They were not subsidy dependant. We made them subsidy dependant to become food secure as a country.