CITIZENS of Chandigarh are doing everything they can to prevent their city from going to the dogs after a district judge got bitten by one.
Earlier this week,a stray dog bit District Judge K K Garg while he was praying at a temple. The dog was overpowered by a team of municipal authorities,but the trouble had only begun. The mongrel died mysteriously and everyone feared it was rabid. But medical tests allayed these fears and the judge sahib has since resumed work.
But the citys active citizenry has launched a campaign to rid the city of stray dogs,with a flurry of writs,petitions,newspaper write-ups and demonstrations. The criticism forced the municipality to act and on Thursday,they hurriedly launched a helpline to report strays.
But eager citizens who dialled the number realised that they were barking up the wrong tree the number belonged to a municipality employee who was totally clueless about any such initiative. The Municipal Commissioner assured an angry public that helpline employees would be given adequate training that it takes some time to teach old dogs new tricks.
The Corporation also gave out some other numbers in October 2007,there were close to 5,309 stray dogs in Chandigarh and of these,only 1,655 were sterilised in 2008.
On Friday,acting on a civil suit filed by four advocates who sought an injunction to control the stray dog menace,a lower court in Chandigarh issued notices to the Union Territorys adviser,home secretary,municipal commissioner,deputy commissioner and Chandigarhs senior superintendent of police. The hearing has been fixed for January 13.
While there are provisions in the Indian Penal Code for legal action against the owner for the misdemeanours of a pet dog,it offers no help in the case of rogue stray dogs. As a retired judge says,The Municipal Corporation can be held accountable for negligence and deficiency in service under the Consumer Protection Act.
And sure enough,some groups are now planning to go to the consumer court against the municipality.
Pradeep Chabbra,who was the citys mayor in 2008,says all this criticism is unwarranted. We had planned a dog shelter long ago. Residents opposed the initial site we selected. An alternative site was chosen in a nearby village but some others objected to that too, he says.
Two years ago,Chandigarh introduced dog bye-laws to rein in pet dogs. These include the citys variant of New Yorks scoop the poop law,mandatory registration,dog tax,bar on keeping more than three pet dogs in a household,a dog badge,and a stick with the person who takes the dog out on walks.