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Pull No Punches: Stray Callousness

24/06/2020 at 5:30 PM

Pull No Punches

Can we then aspire to build a smart city with dumb approaches? It is, therefore, very important for BMC to fix a time line to cleanse the streets of Bhubaneswar and have an effective strategy for stray animals in place. Otherwise, the so called beautification plan would go to dogs literally if we continue to side step the problem. One may create world class infrastructure but it is useless if people do not enjoy quality life. Safe roads and unimpeded traffic are necessary attributes of quality life in a smart city. Is it not?

By Srimoy Kar

There are many junctions in Bhubaneswar where the traffic constables are found to engage themselves in shooing away stray cattle from the roads before resuming their duty every morning. It’s a funny spectacle and a regular city optic. Their exercise in futility continues for a while until the cattle get back and resettle on the roads impeding the flow of the vehicular traffic often resulting in accidents, sometimes fatal.  Bovine menace is a way of life in this city and everyone has grudgingly accepted it. So have the arms of the government! Added peril posed by the ever increasing stray dog population, encroachment by street vendors, erratic parking is a story for another day.

To say that the thoroughfares, arterial roads and by lanes of Bhubaneswar are waiting for mishaps to happen may sound as an understatement or a cliché but the same needs to be highlighted again and again until the collective conscience of the people and the government is stirred and solution reached. Both the people and the government are equally culpable for the hazardous condition of our roads and the life-threatening dangers involved. On our part, we have scant regard for the law and traffic rules, no amount of punitive measure would scare us not to repeat the mistakes, we let loose our domesticated cattle into public spheres, unwanted male calves are freed to fend for themselves on the streets and we encroach roads with impunity to set  shops and dump construction material. The list is unending.

Coming to the animals on the streets, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is supposed to keep the roads free from roaming cows and dogs, ironically, has little inclination for this task. Pre-occupied with the smart city projects and beautification of the capital, BMC has been grossly neglecting this aspect of its responsibility despite severe public outrage and complaints. The civic authority’s wing which deals with stray cattle and dogs is practically defunct and no definite programme is admittedly in place. Officials reply in vague terms and fumble when asked whether any enumeration of the stray animals has ever been done. The cattle catching exercise and the sterilisation of stray dogs programme have stopped ever since the Covid lockdown. Fair enough. No one expects any dilution in its serious engagement against the pandemic. But, this is not the story of today.

 A rough estimate by the Animal Husbandry department suggests that about 1600 stray bulls and 40,000 dogs roam freely within the 167 square km area under BMC. The number of cows released to the streets every day by their owners is extra.


Lack of manpower, logistics and space to keep or relocate the cattle are some of the pleas the BMC authorities have been taking for years every time they are confronted about the absence of any action from them.  Sadly, road mishaps and casualties due to free movement of cows, dogs and fights among stray bulls fail to awaken them. All kinds of alibis are offered: ranging from Maneka Gandhi’s ethical treatment of animals to restrictions under the Animal Protection Act, to cover the lack of action by them. True, BMC’s task has grown manifold over the years as it has been saddled with additional responsibilities. As a result, it is unable to address some of its core duties effectively.

Can we then aspire to build a smart city with dumb approaches? It is, therefore, very important for BMC to fix a time line to cleanse the streets of Bhubaneswar and have an effective strategy for stray animals in place. Otherwise, the so called beautification plan would go to dogs literally if we continue to side step the problem. One may create world class infrastructure but it is useless if people do not enjoy quality life. Safe roads and unimpeded traffic are necessary attributes of quality life in a smart city. Is it not?

The author is former Resident Editor of New Indian Express. He can be contacted at srimoykar@yahoo.com

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with Prameya News)

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