Delhi’s first animal welfare policy focuses on health, rehabilitation and awareness

Street animals among urban garbage in Delhi. Photo by Mayank Aggarwal.

  • The Delhi Government recently unveiled the city’s first animal health and welfare policy which aims to upgrade and open new medical facilities for animals across the city. It proposes to develop animal shelters across the city.
  • The policy also proposes to set up a recreational fishing centre for people, health facilities for birds and multiple gaushalas in every district of the national capital.
  • The policy further suggested animal birth control programme for monkeys but animal rights activist believe that similar birth control efforts for monkeys have complicated matters in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
  • With the national elections approaching, there is also focus on the protection of cows.

Fishing leisurely seems like something one would do in an idyllic setting. But going fishing in the urban setting of Delhi? The idea is part of the Delhi government’s recently released first-ever animal health and welfare policy which aims to have locations where people can go fishing as a recreational activity.

The policy proposes a series of measures to address issues related to protection and welfare of stray animals, pets and cattle. The policy also proposes to strengthen and upgrade medical facilities for animals across the city.

With the aim of boosting income through fisheries, the policy states that there is a scope for establishing new fisheries units in the city and restructuring the existing ones. “The promotion of fisheries will be promoted by opening such units for public where people can come at their leisure time for fishing and take their catch along. They will be charged suitable levy for the same. These units will give a new dimension by increasing farmer/government income and becoming a recreational centre for common public,” noted the policy.

This is one among a series of animal welfare measures charted out in the ‘Animal Health and Welfare Policy, 2018’ which was released, last week, by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government’s Development Minister Gopal Rai.

It noted that Delhi is being urbanised at a pace far beyond the rate of urbanisation in any other city of the country and the influx of people for different purposes is faster than in other cities.

“Hence, the need for their habitation has resulted in shrinkage of agricultural land to small portions that too scattered all over the demographic area of Delhi. Due to the pressing need of land, the dairy activity/farm animals need to be shifted to designated green zones in the peripheral part of city away from the urban habitation,” the policy said.

Expanding the cow shelter network 

It also called for strengthening of existing gaushalas (cow shelters) and establishing more for the welfare of stray and “unproductive” and “unattended” cattle. It also sought to develop an “animal hostel”.

“Presently few gaushalas are available but these don’t have proper infrastructure, design and land as per the requirement of animals. We need to start two-three gaushalas in all the district of Delhi. Each gaushala require land about 15-20 acres,” the policy states.

“An animal hostel is perhaps the only proposal for the pressing need of the day for the small and marginal farmers of Delhi, who due to scarcity of land, resources and fast urbanisation are forced to either compromise with the welfare of animals or stop cattle rearing and hence are being deprived for their age old profession, earning resources, emotional and religious attachment,” it added.

The protection of cows, considered holy in the Hindu religion, has been a recurring featuring in Indian politics and the focus on cows in this policy is not surprising. The protection and welfare of the “holy” cow has been a controversial issue since May 2014 when Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance assumed power at the centre. Recently, during the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly elections, the Congress party too promised slew of measures including setting up of gaushalas across the state if voted to power and the issue of cow protection is likely to spill over into campaigns for the upcoming general elections in May.

Meanwhile, apart from the gaushalas, the policy also proposed to set up animal shelters across the city for abandoned stray companion or other animals.

Upgrading health facilities for animals

A significant focus of the policy is to strengthen overall animal health cover through prevention, control and eradication of various disease conditions, extension of veterinary services, sensitisation of public about animal welfare, rehabilitation of animals, disaster management for animals and hostel facility for farm, stray and abandoned animals.

It stressed on the need of upgrading the veterinary hospitals with all the modern equipment and technologies to ensure better diagnostic and treatment of animals. It proposed to develop polyclinics in all the district of Delhi to provide high end specialised treatment to animals and set up mobile ambulance facilities for animals.

“Considering the constraints like scattered distribution of animal populations, traffic congestion, paucity of facilities for transportation of animals, sometimes it become very difficult for animal owners/lovers or civic agencies (in case of stray animals) to get proper health care facilities. And in many cases animal need to be treated at doorstep. In such conditions the mobile ambulatory facilities can play a vital role. This facility will reduce trauma to animals and can be treated round the clock,” said the policy.

In Delhi, stray cows in traffic-congested areas or eating from garbage is a common sight. Photo by Clément Bardot/Wikimedia Commons.

The government proposes to set up two-three such units in each of its 11 districts and said that these units will also help in transportation of sick animals to nearby polyclinics for better health care.

The policy emphasised that there is a need for a specialised facility that caters to the needs of birds as well.

“At present, there is no government run facility in Delhi. The rise in population of birds in recent year makes it all the more important that welfare of birds and their health be taken up as urgent need by the government by starting specialised aviary health facilities. This set up would be developed in all the districts of Delhi in order to provide high and specialised referral clinical support and treatment to the birds,” it noted.  

The animal welfare policy noted that presently most of the veterinary hospitals are located in the periphery of the Delhi due to which large number of people with pets residing in urban area need to travel to distant hospital for getting health care facilities.

“Because of this there is an urgent need to open more hospitals in urban areas,” the policy said.

As per the policy, the government also wants to set up check posts and quarantine facilities on interstate borders especially at the entry points so that animals found suffering or in close proximity to infected animals can be inspected, tested, treated and quarantined.

The proposal to promote fisheries via recreational fishing for the public however, has raised some questions. Delhi-based animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi said, “The government proposes to set up recreational centers for fishing in Delhi. There is neither an animal health nor animal welfare objective that this exercise will meet. Moreover, with severe water shortage in Delhi, this would be a high investment and low returns project.”

A separate policy on fishery to develop the fishery unit in Delhi is proposed in this policy document.

Birth control programme for monkeys

For checking the population of stray dogs in Delhi, the policy observed that animal birth control in Delhi is already in place but it has not been effective and thus called for its revaluation.

Along with a programme for stray dogs, the policy wants monkey birth control programmes also to be undertaken keeping in mind the “emerging problem of monkey menace in many parts of the city”.

In Delhi and many parts of north India, monkeys have been causing disturbances in human settlements and have rattled even the country’s Parliament.

Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi criticised the move for proposing to start animal birth control programme for monkeys stating that monkey birth control programmes carried out in two states – Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh – have been failed models and have further complicated the conflict situation.

A rhesus monkey in Delhi enjoying an icecream. Photo by Vikram sharma 85/Wikimedia Commons.


Banner image: Stray animals among garbage in Delhi. Photo by Mayank Aggarwal / Mongabay.

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