Daily Current Affairs 24.09.2022 (G4 countries highlight ‘urgent need’ for reform in UN Security Council, Industry urges duty remission revamp in Foreign Trade Policy, The Global South’s assertion in geopolitics, Currency pressure, Ageing regime, On the trail of rabies cases in Kerala)

Daily Current Affairs 24.09.2022 (G4 countries highlight ‘urgent need’ for reform in UN Security Council, Industry urges duty remission revamp in Foreign Trade Policy, The Global South’s assertion in geopolitics, Currency pressure, Ageing regime, On the trail of rabies cases in Kerala)


1. G4 countries highlight ‘urgent need’ for reform in UN Security Council

Germany, Brazil, Japan and India reiterate support for each other’s bids to become permanent members of the UNSC, and for representation of African countries

Reform of the United Nations has been a central theme of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to the United Nations this week, and on Thursday, he met with his counterparts from Germany, Brazil and Japan under The Group of Four (G4) banner following the BRICS meeting. The group is primarily focused on UN Security Council (UNSC) reform, and permanent membership for G4 members. On Thursday, they reiterated their commitment to pushing forward reform and expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of progress.

“Reiterated our joint commitment to work towards text-based negotiations that leads to Reformed Multilateralism. Will continue our cooperation towards this goal,” Mr. Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting. India is currently a non-permanent member of the Council.

In addition to reiterating their support for each other’s bids to become permanent members of the UNSC, the G4 also reiterated its support for African countries being represented in a permanent and non-permanent capacity. The G4 felt that the UN decision making bodies needed to be urgently reformed as global issues were increasingly complex and interconnected, a joint press statement from the group said. The “inability” of the UNSC to “effectively” address these problems “vividly demonstrate[s] the urgent need” for UNSC reform, the statement said.

U.S. President Joe Biden emphasized its support for expanding permanent and non-permanent seats on the Council, during his UNGA address on Wednesday. However, State Department spokesperson Ned Price had said in 2021 that the U.S. supports expansion of body provided it “does not alter or expand the veto”.

On Thursday, the G4 ministers expressed concern that the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly did not make “meaningful progress” in the Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN), which, according to the G4, was constrained by a lack of transparency.

G4 Countries

  • Members: India, Brazil, Germany and Japan
  • All members support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council
  • Formed in 2004
  • Each of these four countries have figured among the elected non-permanent members of the council since the UN’s establishment.
  • Their economic and political influence has grown significantly in the last decades, reaching a scope comparable to the permanent members (P5)
  • G4 campaigns for U.N. Reforms, including more representation for developing countries, both in the permanent and non-permanent categories, in the UNSC
  • France supports inclusion of G4 and an African representative as permanent member with no objection to the veto power being extended to new permanent members. UK supports G4 as new members but without veto power.
  • G4’s bids are often opposed by Uniting for Consensus movement or Coffee Club (ground 12 countries including Pakistan led by Italy) and particularly their economic competitors or political rivals.

2. Industry urges duty remission revamp in Foreign Trade Policy

Industry is hoping for concrete measures from the new foreign trade policy to give a fillip to India’s exports amid slowing global demand, including an overhaul of the duty remission scheme introduced last year and removal of the levy of GST on global trade intermediaries.

The Commerce and Industry Ministry is expected to unveil the new policy next week as the 2015 policy, currently in operation, expires on September 30 after being extended for two and a half years.

The Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) scheme was supposed to take care of various duties and taxes outside GST that add to the cost of exports, but is unable to do so because of various anomalies, restrictions and very low rates, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Pradeep Multani said on Friday.

The industry chamber has urged the government to consider tweaking the scheme so that exporters are specifically reimbursed on the basis of actual taxes and duties paid by them on outbound shipments.

Mr. Multani also pointed out that buying agents and consultants hired by foreign buyers are key intermediaries who facilitate exports of over a billion-plus dollars for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), but their services are being taxed at 18% under the GST Act.

“We expect removal of this GST levy as it is akin to “Export of Taxes” which is against the basic premise of the GST law as well as against the international trade practices,” he said on Friday.

‘Reboot of SEIS’

Seeking a continuation of the capital goods export promotion scheme, given that engineering products have driven a large part of the uptick in exports over the past year, the PHDCCI chief also mooted a reboot of the discontinued Services Export Incentive Scheme, especially for sectors like travel, tourism and construction.

Last week, the Federation of Indian Exporters’ Organisations (FIEO) sought a review of the interest equalisation benefits for exporters.

“There is an urgent need to restore the interest equalisation benefit of 5% to manufacturers in the MSME segment and 3% to all tariff lines (instead of 410 tariff lines) as cost of credit is equally adversely impacting all exporters,” FIEO president A. Sakthivel had said, emphasising that credit costs for smaller players are now 10%-11%.

3. Editorial-1: The Global South’s assertion in geopolitics

The international system is witnessing geopolitical changes and a push for competitive great power hegemony. The United States leads with its goal for primacy in the international system. The U.S.’s national security documents advocate curbing China’s rise, weakening Russia’s capabilities, securing Europe behind U.S. leadership and building satellite alliances with countries which conform to U.S. interests and values. But other players have different agendas and the Global South matters more than before.

China is the ‘near peer’, but in reality is no match to the U.S. militarily. Given its phenomenal economic reach that widened during globalisation, China began building counter institutions. It looked for accommodation with the U.S. in its ‘peaceful rise’ project. As the U.S. found this unacceptable, China turned from partner to competitor to threat.

Experiences with the West as a factor

Russia, with its vast natural resources and military capability, has shown capacity to assert its will in global geopolitics. The Russian aggression in Ukraine confirms the view of U.S. strategists who would like to weaken Russian capabilities. Further, they see Russia especially when in alliance with China or any other country as dangerous to U.S. geopolitics. Russian aggression against Ukraine and the terrible war of attrition have been a geopolitical watershed. The U.S. is using this conjuncture for global primacy. Europe is now firmly behind the U.S.’s strategic plans and is re-militarising. The developing Sino-Russian strategic partnership ‘without limits’ is the clearly defined enemy other for the West. So, the only speed breaker is the Global South.

Countries of the Global South, especially India, China and others, are being blamed for the failing sanctions against Russia in the context of the Ukraine war. The truth is that the Global South, with a few exceptions (except seven), wants a quick and negotiated end to this terrible war; all oppose the sanctions regime and all advocate neutrality. The reasons for neutrality include: the needs for regime survival especially because many in the South are dependent on Russian energy, fuel, fertilizers, wheat, commodities and defence equipment. They have memories of colonialism and recent interventions such as Iraq (2003), Lebanon (1982, 2006), Libya (2011), Afghanistan (2001-21), Yemen (2010-on) Syria (supporting Jordan), Mali, etc.

Recent experiences such as the refusal by the West to grant a one-time exception for patents for the COVID-19 vaccine have not helped either. Media images of the way refugees from the South are treated in contrast to the welcome to Ukrainian refugees have revealed the unsurprising racism. Many countries of the South believe that they are unlikely to get western help when they need it the most. In such circumstances Russia is not seen as a threat in the Global South.

China marches on

China’s expanding military footprint is problematic for many countries in Asia. China’s ‘grey zone’ policies — of creeping expansionism, violation of maritime zones in the South China Seas and elsewhere — have antagonised several countries which include Vietnam, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. But even then, most of these Southern countries would not like to be a part of security or military alliances with either the West or the Russian or Chinese sides. For example, the security pact that China (May 2022) offered to 10 Pacific Island nations did not find favour with them (the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Niue, and the Federated States of Micronesia). They also did not agree to China’s ‘Common Development Vision’.

The U.S. response to this neutrality has been to put massive pressure for sanctions on Russia and build threat narratives about China. But there has been an unprecedented pushback from the South that wants to make its own strategic choices. For example, the U.S. Congress recently passed a bill — “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” — that advocates pressuring, monitoring, and punishing African states and leaders who engage with Russia. In response, the South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor in a press conference — U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was present — said no African country could be bullied and described this U.S. Bill as “offensive legislation”. Ms. Pandor called for diplomacy and urged: “African countries that wish to relate to China, let them do so, in whatever the particular form of relationship of their choice” (August 22, 2022). She also reminded Mr. Blinken of the plight of Palestine under occupation.

On its part, China is waiving debt owed by 17 African countries (for 23 interest-free loans that were due in 2021) — as India did in 2003. There has been similar pushback from Latin America and the West Asian countries. Of course, regional powers also work with the U.S. to project their own power — for example Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis Iran. Smaller states do a balancing act between regional powers — as Sri Lanka does between India and China.

Stronger countries of the Global South such as India have used their leverage to negotiate with multiple sides. India increased oil purchases from Russia, shrugging off western pressure. India has a military Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the U.S.; at the same time, it has developed the International North South Transport Corridor connecting Russia and India via central Asia and Iran with three sanctioned states. It participates in military exercises such as the U.S.-led RIMPAC (the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, and one of the world’s largest maritime exercises) but also sends a military contingent for the Vostok exercises (one of exercises Moscow routinely conducts) with Russia and China. So, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and others have developed the capacity to transact with competing and conflicting sides.

Moving to geoeconomics

The South’s choices are extending slowly to geoeconomics. The fear of the U.S. strategy of freezing dollar reserves has made the South cautious. Further, there is the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s recent announcement about U.S. trade policies of ‘re-shoring’ and ‘friend-shoring’ — meaning trade between allies. This is leading the South to gradually find ways of bypassing the dollar in bilateral trade by using local currencies. Currency swap arrangements are used by China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)+ 3 countries; India with Russia and 23 other countries. This does not mean the end of dollar dominance, but alternate paths are opening up for them.

In sum, the Global South has new agency. Multilateral institutions, ranging from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the African Union, to ASEAN, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, have given it new confidence. Several countries including India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia have become economic powerhouses, albeit with their own inequalities and domestic problems. In these circumstances, neutrality and strategic autonomy have become a viable though not a normative option.

The Global South has made a statement on its development, for better terms for trade for which it needs strategic autonomy. If the Global South were to voice collective concerns on existential threats from climate change, ecological devastation, inequalities and increasing militarisation, and work in plural inclusive ways, it could make the world a better place for itself.

4. Editorial-2: Currency pressure

RBI will have to ensure price stability and prevent further rupee weakening  

The rupee is yet again facing renewed pressure, along with major peers, as the dollar continues to strengthen in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s latest jumbo 75 basis points interest rate increase and the U.S. central bank’s unequivocal message that it remains squarely focused on taming inflation. The Indian currency weakened past the 81-mark against the dollar for the first time ever in Friday’s intraday trade, before ending the week at a new record closing low. The rupee’s slide was softened by the Reserve Bank of India’s intervention to smoothen volatility; the cumulative impact of such interventions over the 12 months through September 16 have shrunk the RBI’s war chest of foreign exchange reserves by almost $94 billion to $545.65 billion. The fact that the rupee is not alone in depreciating against the dollar can be of little comfort to Indian companies reliant on imports of raw materials or services for the smooth functioning of their businesses. They are struggling to contend with rising costs at a time when domestic demand is still to regain a durable post-pandemic footing. The higher import bill is also bound to add inflationary pressures to an economy already beset by persistently elevated inflation and further complicates monetary policymakers’ efforts to rein in the price gains.

The rupee’s more than 8% depreciation against the dollar so far in 2022, with almost all of the weakening having occurred in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, has also largely offset whatever gains that may accrue from the fact that the price of the Indian basket of crude oil has now retreated substantially and is close to its pre-war levels. Overseas portfolio investors too have once again turned net sellers of Indian stocks and debt in the last two sessions after having resumed their purchases of local assets in August and for most of this month. As a result, so far in 2022, FPIs have in total dumped $20.6 billion of Indian equity and debt following three straight years of net investments. And the Fed’s projection of further steep monetary tightening, of at least another 125 basis points, is only likely to lead to more outflows over the last quarter of this year. With the rupee’s real effective exchange rate (REER), or trade-weighted average of its value, also signalling that the Indian currency is still overvalued, the RBI’s rate setting panel will have a fine tightrope to walk next week as it battles to restore a semblance of price stability without choking growth and by ensuring the rupee does not weaken too sharply.

5. Editorial-3: Ageing regime

Iran’s failure to usher in political, social reforms is triggering violent protests 

The death of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman while in the custody of the morality police has triggered nationwide protests in the Islamic Republic, bringing the clerical regime under public pressure yet again. Twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini had been detained earlier this month for allegedly wearing the hijab (headscarf) in an “improper” way. The authorities attributed her death three days later to a heart attack while being trained on hijab rules, but her parents and activists say she was beaten to death. The incident triggered widespread anger in a country where state suppression of women’s rights and resistance has always been a big political issue. Several cities, including Tehran, the capital, and Mashhad, a conservative city that hosts one of Shia Islam’s holiest shrines, saw demonstrators chanting slogans against the clerical establishment and women publicly burning hijabs. Rights groups say some 36 people, including security personnel, have been killed in seven days. These are the most notable mass protests since the 2019 agitations sparked by a rise in fuel prices, and a key political challenge for President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office last year. As in the past, the regime has made it clear that it would use force to quell the protests, with the Revolutionary Guard Corps terming the protesters “traitors” and urging the authorities to “crush” them.

The mandatory hijab rules were introduced in 1981, two years after the revolution that saw the fall of the Pahlavi monarchy and the seizure of power by the Shia clergy. While the Mullahs have since built a system of clerical dictatorship with limited democratic practices, two things have remained constant — state-sponsored conservatism and social repression. This model also produced constant tensions between the rulers and the ruled; those tensions have become more prominent in recent years as the political experiments to reform the system from within failed and economic miseries mounted because of American sanctions. In the last 25 years, Iranians elected two reformist Presidents for two terms — Mohammad Khatami in 1997 and Hassan Rouhani in 2013. But they failed to make any substantial reforms in the political system, which is tightly controlled by the clerical establishment. The lack of reforms and ballooning economic and political pressure often triggered large-scale protests and violent repression — in 2009, 2019, and now in 2022. Protests are part of the political culture in democracies. But in a dictatorship that claims the legacy of a politico-religious revolution, repeated protests chanting slogans such as “death to the dictator” are signs that the Islamic revolution is ageing. Iran’s clergy should learn from the social strife and be ready to address the larger problems that its state and society face.

6. Editorial-4: On the trail of rabies cases in Kerala

The death of a 12-year-old girl in Pathanamthitta has sharpened the focus on the rising number of rabies cases and the growing population of stray dogs in Kerala. With the Supreme Court expected to pass an interim order on the issue next week, K.S. Sudhi talks to public health experts as well as petitioners to map the situation

Twelve-year-old Abhirami, of Mannappuzha in Perinad Panchayat of Pathanamthitta, was returning home early in the morning on August 13 after collecting milk bottles from a nearby house, when a German Shepherd pounced on her. A karate champion with three titles under her belt, Abhirami bravely fought the dog and tried to escape from its clutches. By the time she succeeded in freeing herself, the dog had inflicted deep wounds on her right cheek just below the eye and on her limbs. Though she was administered three doses of the anti-rabies vaccine, on September 5 she succumbed to the deadly virus while undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College, Kottayam.

“She might have been destined to live up to the age of 12. Had she received proper primary care at the hospital where she was initially admitted, she would have survived. Nothing can fill the void caused by her death,” says Abhirami’s mother, Rajani Hareesh, her calm demeanour cloaking the grief that has engulfed her.

Abhiraj, one of her classmates, had rushed to the scene upon hearing her wailing, and miraculously escaped unhurt. “No one could save her from the animal as all were helpless and scared of going near it. Eventually, she succeeded in freeing herself from the beast by pushing it away with her legs,” recalls Rajani.

The tragic death of the young girl drew a wave of protests across Kerala, forcing the State government to constitute a high-level committee to look into issues related to stray dogs. Until the third week of September, 21 rabies deaths have been reported from the State this year. Reports of stray dogs attacking pedestrians as well as motorists pour in regularly from different parts of the State.

According to data available with the State Health Department, the number of dog bite cases reported in the State has been going up considerably — from over 60,000 in 2013 to 1.37 lakh in 2016; and while around 2.2 lakh cases were reported in 2021, this year, the figure had already crossed 2 lakh by August.

Canine count

The canine population in Kerala has gone up significantly since the 19th Livestock Census held in 2012. The number of dogs has been estimated at 11.2 lakh during the 20th Livestock Census, 2019, against 7.88 lakh a decade ago. The latest census has put the stray dog population at 2.89 lakh. The 8.36 lakh pet dogs too add to the State’s canine population, according to the latest headcount.

While the highest number of street dogs were reported from Kollam (50,869), the State capital, Thiruvananthapuram, accounted for the highest number of pet dogs, 1.25 lakh, according to the data generated during the 20th Livestock Census, which was made available by the Directorate of Animal Husbandry (DAH), Kerala.

“The last two years have witnessed the canine population going up significantly as the Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme for dogs was disrupted during the COVID-19 years,” says K. Sindhu, Additional Director, DAH. “A large number of people purchased pet dogs to fight the COVID-induced monotony in life when a ban on travel and social gatherings was in force. Higher the number of dogs in a community means higher the possibility of dog bites too.”

Statistics available with the State Institute for Animal Diseases (SIAD), Kerala, also indicate an upward trend in the number of rabies-positive cases during the last four years.

“There has been an increase in the number of rabies-positive cases in dogs over the past few years. While 97 cases tested positive in 261 samples analysed in 2018, it was 153 cases in 372 samples in 2019, and 221 cases in 573 samples in 2021 analysed at the five centres of the State Institute of Animal Diseases, Kerala,” says Swapna Susan Abraham, Deputy Director of the institute. The department is in the process of compiling the data for the current year.

While the rising number of rabies-positive cases could also be due to an increase in the number of samples tested each year, the numbers are nonetheless an indicator of the spread of the disease to humans from animals. Fully vaccinating dogs in a locality and achieving herd immunity is the only way to protect both animals and human beings from the deadly disease, Abraham says.

Kerala Health Minister Veena George has announced an action plan to make Kerala free of rabies deaths by 2025, which would see the departments of health, local self-government, and animal husbandry coming together to implementing the ABC programme and vaccination of dogs. Under the ABC programme, dogs are picked up from streets for vaccination and sterilisation, and are kept under observation for a few days before being returned to the same place.

Scope for research

Some medical experts have called for a scientific study into a possible mutation of the rabies virus. T. Jayakrishnan, a professor of community medicine at KMCT Medical College, Mukkam, Kozhikode, says there could be a change in its virulence and transmission, which needs to be looked into. “The virus gets transmitted to dogs from wild animals, especially fox. In recent times, such wild animals are widely seen in human habitations. There is a possibility of fox mingling with dogs, which could have led to the spread of the virus,” he says.

Stray dogs, says Abraham of the SIAD, also need to be vaccinated for developing herd immunity in the dog population, which is a major challenge. Oral bait vaccine, a vaccine which is administered to dogs through food, is an option which, it is hoped, will be approved for use in the near future, she says.

Of the 21 official rabies deaths so far this year, 15 persons were not vaccinated even after being bitten by dogs. The State government has sought a quality test on one batch of the anti-rabies vaccine at the Central Drugs Laboratory at Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, after doubts were raised about the efficacy of the vaccine. Reports that a few persons who had taken the vaccine had died of rabies triggered questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, forcing the authorities to undertake a quality analysis of the vaccine.

K.K. Purushothaman, Professor in the Department of Paediatrics, MES Medical College in Perinthalmanna, Malappuram, suggests pre-exposure vaccination or immunisation of the vulnerable population, such as children. “Almost 40% to 50% of those bitten by dogs are children, as it is easy for the animals to reach their face and neck. As such attacks could be fatal, children could be considered for pre-exposure vaccination,” he says.

Legal battle

With the rabies deaths causing panic and reports of residents killing stray dogs through poisoning and strangulation, there is a blame game over the rising canine population and rabies cases. Some legal experts blame it on conflicts in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001; others point to the flawed implementation of birth control measures.

Canine culling campaigners and advocates of animal rights are also engaged in a protracted legal battle over the issue in the Supreme Court. V.K. Biju, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, who brought the issue of the “stray dog menace” before the apex court, contends that the root cause is the enactment of the Rules, which according to him, were passed in contravention of the parent Act, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Biju says that while the Act stands for the “destruction” of stray dogs, the rules are against the “destruction” of stray dogs, including the rabies-affected ones, besides providing specific protection of stray dogs. In his submission before the Supreme Court, he argues that the existence of stray dogs has adversely affected the fundamental rights of citizens, i.e. the right to life and free movement.

In his writ petition filed before the apex court, Biju has sought orders for the strict implementation of the Act and the quashing of the Rules to make India free of stray dogs.

In the light of this, animal rights campaigners are apprehensive over the campaign to cull dogs to check rabies. Vivek K. Viswanath, managing trustee of Thrissur-based Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy, says that the rising canine population and number of rabies deaths in the State are on account of the flawed implementation of animal birth control measures and the vaccination drive.

“The failure of the State government to implement the ABC Rules, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules 2019 shall be blamed for the present crisis and the panic that has gripped the State,” he says.

In its intervention petition, the Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy says the ABC programme in the State came to a grinding halt some two years ago when the government decided to entrust it with the Kudumbashree Mission, a women’s self-help group. It was assigned the job in Wayanad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Idukki districts. Some local bodies in a few districts too initiated the programme on their own. However, the Kudumbashree is not an animal welfare organisation. The petition adds that none of the ABC centres in Kerala had proper monitoring committees as mandated under Rule 4 of the ABC rules.

Viswanath says that culling of dogs is not the solution for controlling the stray dog population and that strict implementation of birth control measures can bring down the number, and vaccination drives can stop the spread of rabies. Authorities should initiate remedial measures before slaying animals, he argues, pointing out that neighbouring States have successfully implemented both birth control and vaccination drives, with visible results.

S. Ratheesh, State Assistant Programme Officer, Kudumbashree, says the mission has carried out around 80,000 ABC programmes across the State since 2017. The organisation was prevented by the Kerala High Court from carrying out the drive in December 2021. Though the mission had applied for recognition from the Animal Welfare Board of India for carrying out the ABC programme, the board declined permission citing infrastructure inadequacies at the centres at Ernakulam and Thrissur, he adds.

With the court restraining Kudumbashree from the programme, a Thiruvananthapuram-based organisation is the only player left in the field. However, there is no ban on local bodies directly implementing the programme by engaging veterinarians and other required personnel. Considering the gravity of the situation, State authorities have decided to immediately set up 30 ABC centres across Kerala and carry out the vaccination drive through the Directorate, says Sindhu of the Directorate of Animal Husbandry.

Problem of waste management

Veterinarians and animal health experts say the dumping of edible food waste on streets and the functioning of unlicensed abattoirs where meat waste is available for dogs to feed on are sustaining the canine population, and making them more aggressive in nature. Sindhu says an effective waste management system needs to be implemented.

Jayakrishnan, of KMCT Medical College, adds that during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, eating from food packets has become common. After consumption, the packets are carelessly thrown on the streets. He argues that the issue should be approached from a social perspective.

“In Kerala, we used to have one or two native dogs in the community, which roamed around houses, near eateries and hotels and consumed the leftover food. Over a period of time, people have stopped attending to the needs of the animals. Many people are mistakenly referring to even native dogs as stray dogs. Thus, those who adopt pet dogs are reluctant to have native dogs and prefer only foreign breeds. This has pushed the dogs to the streets, and [they form] packs, and fend for themselves,” he says.

Justice S. Siri Jagan, a retired judge of Kerala High Court who heads the Supreme Court-appointed committee to decide on the compensation to be paid to dog bite victims, feels that the whole issue revolves around the legal conflict between the Dog Rules and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Till the enactment of the Rules in 2001, the local authorities used to keep the stray dog population under control by physically reducing their numbers in areas where their presence posed a threat to the safety of people. With the Rules coming into force, the local authorities stopped the population control measures. Yet, there had not been any concerted effort to address the issue and to solve the legal conflict, he says.

In its report submitted to the Supreme Court, the Siri Jagan committee had noted that there is no evidence that the ABC procedures could reduce the ferocity in dogs, as claimed by animal rights campaigners. The ABC procedures, said the panel, cannot be a solution to the immediate problem faced by the people considering the huge dog population in the State. After birth control intervention and vaccination, according to the ABC procedures, the dogs have to be let loose at the place from where they were caught. People have no way of knowing whether the dog that has bitten them has been vaccinated or not, compelling them to take an anti-rabies vaccine.

The panel observed that ABC procedures can only help in reducing the dog population in the long run, which may take at least three to four years to show results on the ground. The violent process of catching dogs for the procedure also causes severe trauma to the animals. Once released back in the locality after the surgery is completed, they can view passersby with suspicion. These animals are likely to be more dangerous, said the panel in one of its reports to the apex court. The panel also observed that the ABC programme in Kerala has not delivered the desired results.

The Supreme Court has sought a fresh report on the situation in Kerala from the panel, and is expected to pass an interim order on the issue on September 28.

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