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Picture courtesy: Pratyarth Rao

One could mistake the institute for a jungle, once having met many of its inhabitant junglees. In this article we only refer to the ones that aren’t permitted to enter the lecture halls – the monkeys who steal underwear from hostel clotheslines, cats that prowl under the tables in dining halls or the many strays that spend their afternoons sleeping while students trudge back to class. Being midway between urban Mumbai and the neighbouring National Park, it isn’t surprising that we live in close proximity to a number of animals – both semi-domesticated and wild.

Interactions between residents on campus and animals aren’t always cordial. Packs of dogs are known to terrorize passing vehicles on the road and even students walking back alone at late night. Cows are even more irreverent as they charge about campus. A recent incident involved a senior professor being knocked out of the way near a canteen bin by a hungry cow. Both cows and dogs take water breaks by the coolers in hostels.

The incidents both comical and serious, happen almost everyday. With the number of incoming students increasing, the conflicts are bound to multiply. How can the Institute keep offenders in check? (Imagine main building issuing a raging bull a DAC. They’ve been proven ineffective against meeker varieties of our kind).

So what to do in a situation of immediate threat?

The major situations students face include dog aggression, cow invasion and monkey attacks. In these cases the best idea is call up campus security. Even though QRT has an extension for emergencies related to snakes, there isn’t one for animal related emergencies. In case of injuries caused by animals like scratches or bites, immediately consult a doctor towards taking tetanus and anti rabies shots if required.

However, packs of dogs barking, strays in the hostel and cow issues are the kind of problems that can only be handled in the long-term. Various approaches to this include better hostel infrastructure, policies related to animals at the hostel and institute level and involvement of people working with animal welfare groups.

Professor Prita Pant, an active member of Animal Rescue group, says “On the cases where dogs and cows enter hostels and create problems for students, There have to be infrastructural changes, like putting up a barricade or mounting dustbins at a height to prevent such incidents.“

All hostels are grappling with this issue in hand and have set up various rules to counter the same. Hostel 10, tried an idea involving dog maids, ladies who are employed to shoo dogs away from inside the hostel. Often hostels consider removing or relocating resident strays, however according to Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001, relocation of stray dogs that have been neutered is forbidden.

An idea was floated for every hostel to have a dedicated post to handle animal welfare and conflicts, which could ensure more awareness amongst students. Consistent Hostel level policy towards animals needs to be framed which can deal with animal related conflicts and also ensure that animals are not ill-treated.

At the institute level, there are efforts towards controlling the dog population and minimising conflicts with humans. An Animal Rescue Group has around 70 members comprising of students, staff, professors and professional animal rescuers, who actively tend to animals on campus in their own capacity.

The ARG deals with :
1. Rescuing and treating injured stray animals
2. Feeding dogs across campus
3. Organising neutering and vaccination drives for dogs

Another group, called the Animal Welfare group deals with exhorting for animal related policies to be executed with the administration. Funds allotted to this organisation were exhausted prematurely during the last year. In many cases, expenses are met by members personally.

The groups working on campus currently work under difficult constraints of money, time and volunteers.

Prof. Krishnan, member of ARG, highlighted a need for student volunteers who-
1. Know laws related to animals and can help where needed
2. Understand animal behavior and ways to handle them
3. Are ready to act as mediators in cases of conflicts

At present, very few students volunteers are active. Many hostels have no volunteers at all.

However, Prof. Krishnan, noting that IITB is very animal friendly and has opened up greatly towards animal needs over the last decade, adds, “Earlier everyone used to lament but no one really did anything. Now there are many people active, a lot of students come forward which is very heartening.”

Explaining more on ARG, Prof Krishnan adds, “Because of Whatsapp, people share responsibility over an injured animal which helps it not being heavy on one person. It also helps in acting quickly. There must be around 100 active volunteers, which is still less compared to the campus population, so we can have more interested people joining in. “

Many a times, we come across an injured animal and we do not know what needs to be done. Following are some numbers, which can come in handy in such situations. Till help arrives, it is recommended to keep an eye on the animal and give it water and note its behaviour.

QRT number

Dogs:
Prof. Jay 7045358337
Prof. Sumant Rao 9820303321

Cats, birds and snakes:
Prof Krishnan 9930564242

Animal abuse

There are cases of animal abuse in insti which are not taken seriously. Dogs and cows get injured by speeding vehicles and no action is taken to hold the culprits responsible. Although there are rules to prevent cruelty against animals, at present the institute lacks the necessary execution of these laws.

We live in an interesting mix of greenery and wildlife and we should move towards living in harmony with the diversity of life seen in the campus, by trying our best to be considerate of animals and figuring out ways to solve issues keeping in mind their comfort as well. As Prof. Prita puts it,“There are some common issues, which have to discussed and solved and the solution should not be to just throw away animals but to have empathy and solve in a constructive manner. We should also think about the animals and co-exist with them.“

This article first appeared in volume 20 issue 1 (Feb’18) of Insight IIT Bombay. You can find the rest of the articles at https://issuu.com/insightiitbombay/docs/insight-2.2