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Who let the dogs down?

Animal lovers and heritage enthusiasts protest againt BBMP’s demolition of century-old vet hospital, and say stray dog population will increase exponentially

Published: 21st May 2017 10:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st May 2017 10:21 PM   |  A+A-

The hospital opened by FJ Richards, a visionary, is surrounded by hundred-year-old trees  S Manjunath

Express News Service

BENGALURU: The BBMP’s plan to demolish the century-old Government Veterinary Hospital on Queen’s Road could harm the city’s Animal Birth Control and rabies-prevention programmes.
The corporation plans to bring down the hospital and trees on the two-acre campus to build a multi-speciality vet hospital. Residents and animal lovers are protesting against the loss of a heritage structure, lung space in the city centre and the crippling of the ABC programme.

Stone pillars fastened with bolts to
wooden beams  S Manjunath

One of the only two ABC centres in the city is being run from this government hospital by the Sarvodaya Sevabhavi Samstha, an NGO, for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Pallike. They have however been asked to vacate the premises without giving another option to relocate to.  
The NGO runs two centres in the city ­­­— one for the east zone at Government Veterinary Hospital, Queens Road, and another centre for the north zone at Jakkur, which started functioning only recently and runs only the rabies prevention programme. Another ABC centre is being run by Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) in Viveknagar.  

Corporation delays payment, NGOs pull out
Two years ago, there had been eight NGOs that used to conduct mass sterilization and anti-rabies activities for the BBMP. However, because of many reasons including non-payment of dues by BBMP, non-cooperation by some officials and lack of facilities, most of them left the programme. “Shutting down the ABC centre on Queen's Road even temporarily, especially at a time when the stray population is exploding, can greatly damage the ABC programme,” says Vinay Morey, founder trustee, Sarvodaya Sevabhavi Samstha.

On a daily basis the centre on Queen's Road does as many as 40 to 50 sterilizations. There are as many as 20 kennels at the facility with three staff quarters used as enclosures. “The authorities have asked us to relocate our Queen's Road faciltiy to the one in Jakkur. However, this is logically not possible. We cannot cater to the east zone from such a distance. Plus our facility in Jakkur cannot accommodate such a big facility,” says Vinay. While he has been in touch with the BBMP on the matter, the corporation has not given any communication in print yet.

CUPA asked to  up their intake
Sandhya Madhappa, honorary secretary and trustee, CUPA says, “We are one of the only two organisations that is doing full-fledged sterilisation and anti-rabies programmes. Shutting one of us will definitely have a big impact. Half of the city is not covered even now with the two centres.”
As of now CUPA sterilises 600 to 700 strays a month but have been asked to step up their activities to around 900 strays per month indicating the dire need for more ABC programmes.  

Arun Prasad, an animal rights activist, says that demolition of a heritage building was in the first place wrong. Relocating the Sarvodaya centre itself would be very problematic and hinder the progress made in the ABC programme. “If the government wants to set up a multi-speciality hospital, I think they should do it at the Hebbal animal husbandry premises. Why destroy age-old heritage and trees for it?”     
According to the dog census done by the BBMP in 2007, there were 3 lakh dogs in the city of which 2 lakh were strays. Vinay says since then the numbers could have multiplied.  “In 2001 there were 70,000 stray dogs in the city according to BBMP figures. As of now, this could be over 4 lakh and more,” adds Vinay.

Dog population in the city is also increasing because of open garbage piles. A number of cases of dog bites and dog attacks have also been reported, adds Vinay. “In 2015 no rabies cases were reported. At the least, there were as many as one or two per year. However, between August 2016 and April 2017 itself, there have been 13 positive cases of rabies that is very alarming,” he adds.  

Shift to a rented premises?
Sarfaraz Khan, joint commissioner (Health), BBMP says that alternative arrangements are being made to relocate the Sarvodaya facility.  “We have asked them to identify places to rent out,” he says. “Even if it is for one and a half years, we are ready to pay. Presently we are identifying two places in Mahadevapura and Yelahanaka.” But, BBMP has a notorious reputation for delaying payments and if the rent bills are not cleared on time, Sarvodaya could land in dire straits.

100 Year Old Trees on the Campus
The building that houses the Government Veterinary Hospital on Queen's Road is more than a 100 years old. Independent researcher and historian Arun Prasad says it would definitely have been set up in the early 1900s. “It was opened by FJ Richards, the then President of Bangalore Civil and Military Station Municipality, during his tenure,” says Prasad. Richards, after whom Richards Town and Richards Park is named, held the presidentship between 1908 and 1912. “Richards is well known in other fields and for his other projects including setting up the first sanitary dairy farm in the city.” Richards’ vision was a sprawling health centre that could treat 200 to 300 animals at a time.

“This was opened in the Cantonment area where the Britishers lived and they kept pets,” says Prasad. In the 1960s and early 70s too, this hospital was bustling with its cattle and canine patients. But Prasad says that we should not limit its heritage value to the structure. “The structure is not architecturally significant, it is a small one and not listed by the ASI (Archeological Survey of India), but it is definitely a historic building. But it is not just that that has value, there is the flora and fauna that surrounds it. You can see gigantic trees that are more than a 100 years old on the campus,” he says. “This is one of the few surviving lung spaces left in the city and it should be preserved.”



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