“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” said Mahatma Gandhi.
In the flood-hit village Mundi Choliyan of Shahkot in Jalandhar district on Saturday around 8.30 am, a cow lay unconscious near the Sutlej banks. Breathing short with signs of fever, she couldn’t have survived. Soon a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) led by team commander Chhering Gonbo, after noticing the cow, served her water and medicines. A vet was called and a few hours later, her breathing became normal. She was doing much better by 2 pm.
At a time when the focus of administration, volunteers and other rescue teams is primarily on saving human lives, humanity and compassion can be seen winning in flood-hit districts of Punjab where the teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are also saving voiceless creatures. Even the common people are reaching flood-hit villages with trucks filled with green and dry fodder and water for cows and buffaloes which are bearing the brunt of floods equally along with their human owners.
Vinesh Singh, sub-inspector, NDRF, said that in the past six days beginning August 19, the NDRF teams have rescued 94 animals which primarily include dogs, buffaloes and cows. “Whenever our teams travel in boats in flooded waters and see an animal, we rescue it. In six days we have rescued 94 livestock and dogs. Some people refuse to leave homes without their pets so we rescue them with equal care keeping in mind their safety,” he said.
Singh said that while dogs are carried in boats as volunteers keep them in their lap, the cows and buffaloes are first tied with a rope and then escorted along the boat. “We have to ensure that cows and buffaloes are escorted very gently or else they can slip or drown in the muddy water which is slippery. Sometimes they are nervous and do not respond and refuse to walk along, then they have to be pulled gently,” he said.
“Depending on the situation, sometimes when there is a lack of space in boat or not possible to take an animal along, we first drop humans and then go back to get their pets or livestock. We do not leave the voiceless creatures there to die. Even their owners come only on the condition that their pets will also be rescued,” Singh said. “Our teams have basic training of providing first aid to animals too. Some stray dogs which try to bite are tied from mouth but rescued too.”
Ravi Kumar Pandita, commandant, 7 NDRF, said that they work on a simple motto that a life has to be saved during a disaster, be it a human or an animal. “During the rescue operation, if we see an animal in need of help, we rescue it immediately. A life has to be saved be it a human or an animal. Our teams are trained for this. When animals do not respond to our gestures in flood waters, we go near them and try to calm them. Dogs generally are carried in lap. It is tougher to rescue cows and buffaloes but we manage,” he said.
Dr Kirti Dua, incharge wildlife centre and professor veterinary medicine from Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) Ludhiana, who recently visited Shahkot in Jalandhar with his team to inspect condition of animals, said that both NDRF teams and common volunteers are showing great spirit in rescuing and taking care of animals during floods.
“People are coming with trucks filled with fodder so that rescued cattle are not hungry. NDRF and other teams are rescuing animals too. At this point, there are two concerns — disease outbreak if humans come in contact with infected animals and vaccination. It has to be checked if rescued animals have undergone proper vaccination. With receding water, mud will be responsible for causing foot ailments among livestock. But dedication of local people is phenomenal. They are bringing trucks of green and dry fodder for cattle. The teams of vets from state animal husbandry department are deployed there to administer vaccination and treatment to sick animals. They are in touch with us,” he said.