From roads to high court - dog bites take a toll
Posted on Sep 01 2014 | IANS
By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, Sep 1 : It pays to be bitten by a pet dog in Chandigarh but the same is not applicable to victims of bites from stray dogs. At least, this is what Chandigarh's Municipal Corporation (MC) thinks.
Put on the backfoot by a latest observation of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on why it was not compensating victims of bites by stray dogs, the municipal corporation's general house has held that it is "not liable to make any compensation to the victims" of the strays.
"The General House has deliberated on the issue and arrived at the conclusion that in the absence of any provision regarding compensation in the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, no relief can be extended on the part of Municipal Corporation, Chandigarh (to victims in stray dog bite cases)," a Chandigarh MC resolution said Friday.
Despite the dog bite menace pending before the high court through a petition filed by local resident Gurmukh Singh, the municipal corporation has virtually washed its hands off the issue. The petitioner's counsel has pointed out that while victims of pet dog bites get compensation from the pets' owners under the rules, there are no rules governing stray dogs which had to be taken care of by the municipal corporation here.
With rising number of dog bite cases across the union territory in the past three years, the menace of strays has become serious for city residents.
In May this year, one stray dog bit at least 30 people in a locality in Sector 20 within 24 hours. From a nine-year-old girl to septuagenarians - the biting dog had a free run of its victims.
"The terror of stray dogs is such that we are afraid to go out freely. We cannot allow children to go out and play as they can be attacked and bitten by stray dogs," Sector 20 resident Surinder Singh told IANS.
The municipal corporation has been under fire from residents in the city for its failure to control the stray dogs menace.
According to municipal records, the number of stray dogs in the city stands at over 7,850. The corporation claimed that it had sterilized nearly 7,000 stray dogs. Yet, the number of stray dogs continues to increase.
The city saw nearly 3,000 dog bite cases in the first four months of this year. In 2013, there were nearly 8,000 dog bite cases. In 2012, the dog bite cases stood at nearly 6,900.
Nominated councillor D.S. Sandhu said: "It is a complete failure on the part of the MC to control the menace. The sterilization results are not visible on the ground. I am sure the MC is providing fictitious figures, and nothing is being seriously done in this regard."
The high court recently questioned the logic of a team of councillors and officials from the MC undertaking a tour of Nashik to study how the municipal authorities in that Maharashtra city were dealing with the stray dog menace.
The corporation's general house has objected to this.
"They (councillors) have felt that in a democratic set-up, it is well within its (MC's) competency to take a decision as deemed fit for the welfare of city."
"The councillors have also expressed their resentment over the questioning in which the study tour of Nashik has been discussed in the honourable court... expressed their grievances also as their (councillors') image has been diminished in the public," the MC resolution said.
The resolution added that the corporation's sentiments should be conveyed to the high court on the next date of hearing of the matter.
Councillors who went to Nashik said they found that the corporation there had a dedicated 24-hour helpline where people could complain about the dog menace.
The Chandigarh MC does not have its own dedicated dog pound to catch and confine the stray dogs. It has to depend on NGOs, which have limited resources, to take care of the caught stray dogs.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)