Consider the following facts.
According to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, in India, you can get away with being cruel to most animals by paying a fine of anything between Rs 10 and Rs 50. That won't even buy you a decent cup of coffee in most cities in this country. If you repeat the offence within three years, the penalty may go up to anything between Rs 25 and Rs 100. You could also be thrown in jail for three months. But that's about it.
The chances of anyone ending up in an Indian prison for kicking around a stray dog or cat are slim. Only the bovine species enjoy special privileges here. Cows now have a dedicated 24-hour helpline in Haryana to prevent theft and mishandling.
Over the last few days, the nation has been following with bated breath the story of a dog, now christened 'Badhra', who was thrown off the roof of a multi-storey building in Chennai by two medical students. It was not enough for these men to have simply committed such a crime; they also decided to record it on camera and broadcast it on social media.
The debased bravado of these men was condemned almost unanimously. The torturers have been suspended by their college for their regressive actions. But what has the law been able to offer to the poor animal in terms of redress? Just the aforementioned fines of Rs 10 and Rs 50 to the offenders as punishment for the crime committed, followed by almost instant release on bail.
Having walked away scot-free with such minor consequences, these men can indulge in their sick fantasies once again with impunity, as long as they can pay the higher fine of Rs 100 and face the idea of doing time for a couple of months. If they do not make the mistake of flashing their atrocities to the world a second time, it is more likely they won't even have to worry about such matters.
Remember, these men are more part of the norm than the exception in this country. While incidents of casual cruelty abound in India every day, only the more spectacular ones reach the public eye and inspire outrage. Last month The News Minute reported an incident of 50 strays being sedated and burnt alive near Chennai. The reason behind this mass murder was the ostensible threat these dogs posed to the local goats and sheep.
In 2012, 100 dogs were found dead in Maduravoyal after being made to consume cyanide pills. Dogs in Sendurpuram, Vinayaganagar and Amman Nagar were killed and brought to D.R.R Nagar in Chennai, where they were buried near a pond, allegedly under the local panchayat's instructions.
Earlier this year, 50 community dogs were killed near the well-known Velankanni church in Tamil Nadu. Some of these animals were clubbed to death, while the others were strangled with a nylon rope. It was important for the roads to be cleared of these dogs for an annual festival, a prime tourist attraction, which was about to commence.
Earlier this year, an RTI application revealed that about 2,800 stray dogs were euthanized in Chennai over four years. While Rule 9 of the Animal Birth Control Rules (Dogs), 2001, allows for the mercy killing of mortally ill or wounded dogs under the supervision of a veterinarian, the culling in Chennai did not explain, with any degree of transparency, how these animals were selected in this drive. A good many of those killed, under this reckless 'catch and kill' policy, could probably have survived had they been given proper medical care and attention.
This list of horror stories stretches on and it will get lengthier each day – until the law makers decide to mete out the harshest penalty for offenders of animal cruelty. While it is heartening to see collective outrage over such unspeakable incidents on social media – and it is important to call out even the slightest of transgressions and
publicly shame the perpetrators – real change can only come with more stringent legal consequences. The law needs to instill the fear of the most severe punishment in those who contemplate such acts of cruelty in order to act as an effective deterrent.
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