The story of the Camel and the Arab about sharing limited space of his tent in the desert for living in comfort has clearly got reversed in cities all over the world, given the Camel of the story forcing the Arab out of his skimpy tent after being allowed to just keep his (Camel’s) head inside the tent for protection from the desert’s scorching heat. There must have been times in the estimated 4.5 billion (4,500 crore) years’ life of planet earth when only marine fauna and terrestrial creatures, particularly the lizards of gigantic proportions, behemoths and so on roamed the planet with not even a human being to be found anywhere. The time-span of nearly 2,00,000 years since humans emerged has witnessed the feature of a small fraction of the humans to creatures ratio clearly changed to reverse of the ratio, that is, humans far outnumbering the creatures of every species, singly as well as collectively, with the creatures in urban spaces shown the exit door similar to the Arab of the aforementioned story. While pets of urbanites have begun to feel suffocated, their counterparts in rural homes, along with cattle, sheep, goats, being sources of their family incomes have managed to survive, God-only-knows for how long.
Human populations of different countries as well as cities that are getting overcrowded in our times are being counted in millions (Bengaluru 13-plus million) while the number of denizens of the now shrinking forest regions are being counted in hundreds and thousands. The day is not far off when the number of the animals in wild shall be counted only in double digits, if at all.
Unmindful of grabbing the living spaces of all other species than themselves, apart from depleting the green cover in urban spaces as well as rural regions and forests, human beings are lately getting concerned about human-animal conflict, which is one-sided view of the phenomenon. Even domesticated creatures, including cattle for providing milk, dogs as pets, horses for both transport and racing, fowls for meat to meet food needs, sheep-goats-pigs for business purposes are not accepted in urban spaces. Whatever is left of them, as in Mysuru, are dubbed as strays, a derogatory term for the speechless species. Added to this, the full grown trees, ignoring their role in replenishing oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere are being got rid of in the name of development and for safety of urbanites commuting in polluting automobiles.
In the backdrop of the foregoing scenario of human populations overwhelming all other life forms, the just-disclosed directive from the Animal Welfare Board of India, constituted under the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, that States will be held responsible for cattle, dogs and cats wandering on the streets and officials will be held accountable for inflicting cruelty on them sounds like tokenism towards the welfare of animals at large. The suggestion of including hostels for strays in Smart City plans may amuse some and delight others.