Canine cops give duty a leg-up during the police meet at JAP-1 grounds in Ranchi on Tuesday. Worldwide Veterinary Service CEO Luke Gamble, international director of Mission Rabies Kate Shervell and vet Ursula Goetz at Project Building. Pictures by Prashant Mitra
Three years from now, Ranchi is likely to become the first Indian city to be free of rabies.
Luke Gamble, the CEO of international animal charity Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) who is spearheading Mission Rabies in this country, announced the possible achievement on Tuesday, overwhelmed with the co-operation extended both by the Jharkhand government and citizens of the state capital.
Gamble, who is leading a team of European vets to sterilise and vaccinate 50,000 stray dogs in India, including 5,000 in the city, said they would return to Ranchi.
“So far, we have worked in 12 cities across India, but the kind of response we got in Ranchi was commendable. We did not get such a response in other cities. Hence, we have decided to come back to Ranchi for the next two years,” the charity founder told newsmen at Project Building.
Also present was state tourism secretary and animal enthusiast Sajal Chakraborty who is helping out the Mission Rabies team.
The Mission Rabies team has visited Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Goa, Nagpur, Kottayam, Madurai, Chennai and Erode among other cities in India, but wants to confer the honour on Ranchi.
So, what has the capital done to be the choice candidate?
Sources said the animal husbandry department deputed 10 vets to aid the mission. Also, 40 para-vets from the city joined the international team.
The department further provided logistics support — four vehicles for the team to catch canines. Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) added a fifth to the anti-rabies fleet. The state government, on its part, offered free lodging to the European vets at Circuit House and a hotel.
“Wherever we went, local residents came out and helped us catch dogs. People, led by ward councillors of RMC, also brought strays to our camp to have them vaccinated,” said Praveen Ohal, a team member of Mission Rabies.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is the authority to declare a city rabies-free.
Gamble said during the third year of the mission, a WHO team would be invited to check ground realities in Ranchi, following which a certificate would be issued declaring freedom from a life-taking disease.
Currently, there are only 104 cities in the world that have won the crown from WHO.
So, once rabies-free, Ranchi will join a lucky league of its Asian cousins like Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Doha among others.
Many European countries and territories like the UK, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland are already rabies-free.
The anti-rabies campaign in Ranchi was launched on September 16 in the presence of Sakshi Dhoni, the better half of Team India skipper M.S. Dhoni, and tourism and urban development minister Suresh Paswan.
The state capital has around 40,000 stray dogs. HOPE and Animal Trust, the RMC’s partner in a vaccine campaign, has already immunised 15,000 dogs.
Mission Rabies has a target of 5,000 by September 28.
“So far, we have vaccinated around 4,000. We will cross the 5,000 mark by Saturday,” Kate Shervell, international director of Mission Rabies, sounded confident.