Gujarat has a history of showing kindness towards animals, and a concern for their welfare.
Ahmedabad city has chabutaras that date back several hundred years. The Jains, with their enormous influence on the city’s and state’s ethos, eschewed killing any beast, small or big, and some families, notably the Lalbhais, stated panjrapols to protect neglected and sick cattle. Even today, the family trusts support hundreds of cattle left to wonder and die once their usefulness is seen to have come to an end. In more recent times, once the danger and horror to birds during Uttarayan came to be known, hundreds of individuals joined the efforts to cut back on deadly manja to protect them, and spend the entire day rescuing them rather than flying kites.
It must have been in this spirit of compassion and love that the veterinary hospital in Anand Agricultural University was started many decades ago. It is an exceptional teaching and clinical centre equipped with the latest technologies for a host of ailments, artificial insemination, wildlife medicine, diagnostic services, gynecology and obstetrics, ophthalmology, all kinds of surgery and preventive care and much more for all types of animals from household pets to farm animals, goats and army horses and narcotic sniffing dogs. It has been winning national awards for several years now, bringing pride to our state.
The hospital is abysmally understaffed. For years now, three senior doctors, led by the wonderful Dr DB Patil, and all over 50, have led a team with no followers or helpers. The state government, in the true desi spirit of building, not maintaining, and then building something new, has not allowed for any recruitment for years. There is no operation theatre staff; no laboratory technicians; no cleaning staff; no junior doctors training to be part of the main staff and take over in a few years. All the staff there consists of daily wagers or students, keen to learn and set up lucrative practices elsewhere. Can any service industry, let alone a hospital, be run on daily wagers? What is their commitment to excellence? What can you train them to be good at? Why should they care knowing they are there at most for eleven months so that the government can continue paying a pittance as contract labour and give them no dignity of a staff member with benefits? Is it enough to have an impressive list of diagnostic tools on the website and no one except three overworked and worried doctors to run them? And why are there no staff members?
Why does the government spend so much on trivial things and not on a crucial service? If the Gir lions we pride ourselves on, and fight battles with other states to keep, fall sick, there is no other facility but this to tend to them. Will incompetent and untrained staff serve them? No, certainly not.
Then why is more staff not being recruited, trained, nurtured? Have we not yet understood that the entire service industry, be it hospitals or hotels, depends on first rate human power and not on infrastructure alone?
A recent study on the brains of dogs published in the New York Times reads, Dogs Are People Too. Till recently doctors only inferred what dogs felt. In order to see their brain activity they had to be put under MRIs. This couldn’t be done unless they were sedated, and that wouldn’t serve the purpose as brain activity would be severely curtailed. Now dogs have been trained to stay calm through MRIs. And the amazing discovery was the similarity of dog and human brains in the crucial region of the caudate nucleus, a part so consistent that it can predict our preference for food, music and even beauty. As it does in the brains of dogs.
With this discovery, and a slightly more compassionate view, can the state government please allow immediate recruits who can truly bring this hospital and research facility up to being what its potential is?
The writer is a noted danseuse and social activist