India and all of its precious resources are focused on bringing the nation to the “big boy’s table” of developed countries. It is a natural and an important ambition to possess. But making a nation great is not a sprint, rather it’s a marathon and to be truly recognized as a great nation we must do exceedingly well in all the categories. Nothing less will do. Mahatma Gandhi gave a parameter in the last century when he said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Alas! The status of animals in our nation is still grim in 2016. This is clearly seen when educated people who cannot even feign ignorance commit heinous atrocities towards animals. The cases of the hapless dog which was thrown off a roof in Chennai by a medical student, and Shaktiman, the police horse, who was attacked mercilessly by a protestor in Dehradun, are glaring examples of the threat that animals face in our country.
This is despite the fact that laws have been put in place to ensure protection of animals in India. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act, 1960) includes numerous acts that are considered as offences against animals and in turn against the State. Section 11 of the PCA Act does not even condone kicking any animal, including a stray. Section 22 of the same act prohibits training and using bears, monkeys, bulls, lions, tigers and panthers for entertainment purposes. Further in India, organizing or participating in any animal fight is a cognizable offence. Conveying animals in any manner, which causes them discomfort, pain or suffering is also punishable.
But while this Act and the rules made under it are commendably comprehensive, they lack sufficient deterrence. This is because of the laughable penalty accorded to the crimes. In the case of first offence the fine is upto a paltry Rs 50 and in the case of second offence,within three years of the previous offence, the fine extends to a maximum of Rs 100! Such penalties can never achieve the objective or the purpose of the Act and is therefore in an urgent need of reform. Animals are treated as dispensable and definitely of lesser value than humans. This is proven by the fact that prosecution on violation of animal rights in the form of any offence included in the PCA Act, 1960, cannot be instituted after the expiration of three months from the date of commission of the offence whereas the limitation period in case of violation of human rights is one year under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
It is important to bring animal rights to the forefront. Give voice to the voiceless and if you cannot give them the voice they deserve then give them more teeth. This can be achieved by imposing harsher penalties on the offenders and making crimes against animals, cognizable offences for swifter action. Use “Name and Shame Policy” against such faux-civilized people who torture animals for sheer fun. Give more powers to the Animal Welfare Board of India to ensure that their recommendations do not fall on deaf ears.
India also needs to revamp its veterinary sector. There is an embarrassing level of shortage of veterinary professionals in the country. According to the Veterinary Council of India, the number of registered veterinarians is half the estimated requirement. Lack of infrastructure and funds have made veterinary science unattractive to students. Also, delay by the state governments in appointing infirmaries for the care of injured animals have left them at the mercy of gods.
India is conscious but the steps taken are too little too late. We need to make strides if we want to protect the beings around us lest we allow evolution to completely fail on us and those who are not our inferiors but our allies on this planet. Lord Mahavira correctly said, “To all life is dear, hence their life should be protected.” Period.