NGOs have come forward to take charge of the stray cats and dogs infesting the medical colleges and hospitals and other state-run healthcare centres.
Welcoming the NGO move, health services director Prabhakar Chatterjee said: “There are about 20 state-aided healthcare centres in Calcutta, including five medical colleges and hospitals. We have repeatedly requested the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to remove the dogs and cats from the campuses, but no action has been taken.”
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee defended his civic body by saying: “We have stopped exterminating strays after Maneka Gandhi’s meeting with the civic authorities in 1997. Since then, it has been the NGOs’ responsibility to check the number of pariahs in the city by sterilising them.”
On Friday, sources said, a Behala NGO, Love‘N’Care for Animals, informed the health department and surgeon-superintendent Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay of SSKM Hospital of its proposal to sterilise the dogs in government hospitals, starting with SSKM, from next week.
“I have convened a meeting on Saturday with animal-lovers’ organisations, like the Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Love’N’Care for Animals, People for Animals, Friends of Dogs, South Calcutta Animal Welfare Society and Mother of Stray Cats and Dogs, to get rid of the strays in the hospital,” said Chattopadhyay.
Of the six NGOs invited, only one has come up with a specific programme, he added. “We will catch the dogs, sterilise them in our hospital and return them to their territory after ‘earmarking’ them. However, the cats will not be returned,” explained Sushmita Roy of Love’N’Care for Animals. It is mandatory under animal birth control rules to return the dogs to their habitats after sterilisation, she added.
But mayor-in-council (health) member Javed Ahmed Khan appeared sceptical about the NGOs’ role in checking pariah-dog population. He claimed only about 1,500 dogs are being sterilised in a year, though the city’s stray dog population has crossed the three-lakh mark. So, he pointed out, no more than 5,000 dogs could have been sterilised over the past five years.
Assistant director (conservancy) Swapan Mahapatra alleged that most of the NGOs existed only on paper and their contribution was too small to be counted, in a city with a dog population running into lakhs.
However, the civic dog squad still exists. About 70 employees of the squad, along with 20 trained supervisors, sit idle in office. The two netted, yellow vehicles they drove to rid the city of strays are seldom seen on the road.