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Dog days in rudderless india

By PREM CHANDRAN How would we rate a government that dances to the whims of nuts in the society? Or, .....




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By PREM CHANDRAN

How would we rate a government that dances to the whims of nuts in the society? Or, how would we rate a government that goes by the dictates of a minister or some socialite breezing around power corridors; dictates that have no co-relation to the realities on the ground? Or, how would one justify the deafening silence of the central and state governments on the mayhem played out in the streets by unruly, undomesticated, wayward dogs? Is there anything called governance in this country, or do we have just men and women warming up their seats, allowing even a dog to have its way over their heads?

Dogs, no doubt, are part of the society. They are humans’ best friends; that's if they are properly bred at homes. Their place is not in the streets, biting hapless pedestrians, killing children and defecating all around -- making walking a horrible experience in public places these days. The more the dogs there are in the streets, the more the defecation, and the more the chances of people reaching the excreta into their homes at the back of their shoes or chappals. But, will those like Maneka Gandhi, who are cut from public life, live in gated communities, and drive up and down in their air-conditioned sedans or SUVs, ever understand the plight of the common man? And, this is a nation that is supposed to have governments that reflect the people’s – the common man’s included – will.

We, the common people of this country are distressed; especially those living in cities, or metropolitan cities. In Mumbai, dogs are not only in the streets, but also everywhere, and prominently at the large numbers of local rail stations, roaming around platforms, barking, licking and pressing people around. They, by their constant presence at platforms, are known these days as station masters. The real station master has control over trains that pass by, but he has no control over the dogs creating rackets on the platforms. His Master’s Voice has turned into a nuisance, a threat to humans, and a curse on public life. The same is the case with Kolkata’s Howrah Station, or Chennai Central. Dogs are everywhere. They, starkly, and as was recently photographed, are "uninvited guests" on the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, strolling through functions and dinner meets. Touch them, you are in jail. Give a kick to an urchin in the street. That's no problem; rather, that's laughing matter. That's how laws are in India.

Street dogs are killing people by the dozens. They are biting people by millions. Open the pages of newspapers, or browse the net for related news, and they are a dime a dozen on a daily basis. Children are trampled, hundreds of them bitten, some of them killed, pregnant woman who cannot walk fast being trailed and bitten; and dogs are also creating a racket all through streets at night making the common man’s life miserable. Those living in gated communities and drive out of their homes on their luxury vehicles to work or solcialise and return to the safety of their homes safely ensconced in their vehicles, will not have a chance to face street dogs or the menace thereof. The roar of their SUVs or Sedans will drive the dogs out of their way.

Nuts of a kind are taking governments for a ride, and making a hue and cry over safety and protection of (street) dogs. For safety of dogs in the streets, governments have brought forward new legislation, for which there however is no dearth in this country. There are two houses for Parliament and several legislatures. If they do not pass laws, what would the large number of members do there? Laws, once made, are held aloft by judicial officers who live in glasshouses, far from the life of the common people in the street. Do judges walk in the streets? It is the ordinary people, the multitudes of them, we the people, who city after city, and village after village, suffer. The elitists, with their fat salaries or ill-gotten wealth, who have little concern for the plight of the suffering multitudes, are heart-broken at the sight of a dog being chased out, or a stone being hurled at a barking canine. The sympathy they have for dogs is missing when it comes to the plight of the common man, or when a child is attacked and killed by a street dog. It will get a single column display in newspapers and disappear from the public mind soon enough. A dog cannot be hauled before court of law for killing a child in a slum or in a promenade. Dogs have as much privilege and protection that the hapless child does not have in a country where the Congress party ushered in socialism for close to seven decades! The wide difference and disconnect between what politicians preach and practise.

All this is not to say animal activism is a bad idea. Those who have time at hand, little work to do, and much cash to play around, can indulge in so many kinds of activism, as is seen all around. Agreed, animals need a space to live in this society, and it should not be our endeavour to inflict a harm on them. But, that need not be in the streets or in public places or in the Rashtrapati Bhavan lawns. Dogs are a privileged species here because some activists are seeing them as part of their elitist cult. So many animals in this country are openly maltreated and we are not seeing an activism of the same kind as is seen with dog protection.

There are those in this country who take umbrage at (the possibility of) a Muslim family killing a cow and storing beef in their refrigerator – which might or might not have happened in Dadri, UP. But what happened for sure was that cow protection activists have shown their animal instinct and done to death a human being – a Muslim elder -- there. Animal love triumphs over the fate of a human being. Where does the concept of a civilized society start and end? It is all right to say what happened in Dadri is an aberration, but how would we as a society continue to claim the cultural superiority that was part of this nation’s heritage? What will, then, be the difference between a semi-literate Mullah and his breed of misguided youths and the rest of the society?

The West is not behind India when it comes to concerns of animal protection and safety. Or in pushing animal rights movements, for that matter. But, if they are into such activism, that's after they have made the life of the citizens safe, secure and meaningful. India has miles and miles to go before it uplifts its suffering multitudes to the level of a normal human existence. But, we are several steps ahead of the West when it comes to elitist enterprises like animal protection. Note the point that dogs do not roam around the streets in London or Washington, or even smaller cities in the West or the bigger cities in the rest of the world. Those in the West or those in Singapore or Tokyo are a civilized society, and those who govern the nations are responsible citizens, and they have put in place systems to control such indulgences and outright wantonness, be it street dogs or someone else.

Equating individual and animal rights with perilous action in the streets is beyond one’s common sense. When laws are brought about, it is all right to pander to the whims of the elitists, who have a rootless existence and live mostly on the sweat of the common man. But, it is imperative that the ordinary man’s struggle thereof is not lost sight of. Aspiring for an utopia by standing atop the filth and squalor of India is a ludicrous obsession. It is also an attempt at taking the common man, or the ordinary citizens of this country, for a rough ride which the successive Indian establishments are smart at.

What is expected of a civilized society is different from what is happening across the country; Dadri or elsewhere – and we have seen things in Gujarat too – the land, not of PM Modi alone, but too of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of the non-violence creed. The Godhra and the Gujarat riots are behind us. New attacks of the worst kind, now on Dalits, are happening in the same soil. Politicians are interested in fishing in troubled water, speaking up for the disadvantaged sections and kicking them from behind, and not in changing the mindset of the people. More heinous acts are happening all around, away from the glare of TV cameras. A society that plays flute when children are pounced upon and killed on the streets or on village roads, and where the laws are made in a way that dogs are allowed to roam free and not to be touched or troubled, and if it’s done then face the grave risk of jailing, is a funny society.

Why such a funny society exists here is because this society is led by funny men and women, in the form of politicians, who have a finger in every pie and whose only interest today is to promote their individual interests. Social commitment or an interest in the society’s well-being is a thing of the past. They are largely oblivious of what's going wrong with the society, as in the case of the dog menace in the streets. Governments are run by men without the necessary strengths to handle the job. Everyone who becomes a leader in this land of chamchagiri is not necessarily of leader stuff. When city after city is trampled by dogs, when people are getting immune to such chaos and lawlessness, the scenes on the streets are for sure depressing. These scenes present a curious sight to the few foreigners who land up in this soil; the land of chaotic situation and rudderless administrations. After all, how many foreigners want to come to India to spend a vacation or have some quality leisure time spent? Once Mumbai streets were flooded with foreigners. Not anymore. At one time, it was the harmless cows that roamed the Indian streets and brought it a bad name. India was seen by the world as the land of cows crossing the path in the streets. Today, with governance getting down to gutter level, barking dogs have taken the place of cows. They are biting and killing people at will.

The street dog menace is just a metaphor for the deeper rot that has afflicted this society and its governance mechanisms. Economic progress, and claims thereof, are not all that a society needs. Such endeavours have essentially helped some corporates to grow and some youths to get jobs in the white collar and other services sector. A Maneka Gandhi, or someone else, is just an excuse for the lack of nerve, a will to perform when it comes to scenarios like the dog menace. What is more evident is a deeply ingrained sense of complacence on the part of those who govern – rather misgovern-- us. Paying salary to the government staff or buying fighter jets are only a part of governance. Those who govern this land could be a Narendra Modi, a Chief Minister of this or that hue, or one who dons the gown of City Mayor. What are they there for, after all, if they cannot care for and are impervious to the well-being of the society? -- premcee@gmail.com; www.indiahereandnow.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 08-15-2016 at 08:10 PM
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