segunda-feira, 27 de julho de 2015

The street dog and the slum dweller: twin victims of urban renewal in modern India

by Lisa Warden

The city of Ahmedabad, India is portrayed as a pioneer in urban governance. In this paper, I will examine the parallel effacing effects of urban planning on street dogs and slum dwellers in the city of Ahmedabad.
In India, there are millions of street dogs who reside in proximity to the human population. There are laws pertaining to free-roaming canines. They can be neither killed nor displaced. If a city deems the local street dog population to be problematic in any way, all they are permitted to do, by law, is humanely catch, sterilize and vaccinate the dogs, and return them to their original locations.
The municipality of Ahmedabad has, however, under the guise of governance, dealt with the street dog population in a brutal, oppressive manner.
A street dog population census in 2010 found there to be approximately 220,000 street dogs in Ahmedabad. A 2014 report revealed that between 2003 and 2012, city workers, in contravention of the law, caught approximately 185,000 “complaint dogs” and dumped them on the city outskirts. One of the main dumping grounds for the dogs was Pirana, a massive landfill site on the east side of the city. An unknown number of dogs died either in the extremely violent catching process, from hyperthermia in the vans en route to the dumping site, or at the site itself. The majority of citizen complaints about free-roaming dogs to which the municipal workers responded to catch dogs come from higher income areas of the city.
The municipality’s rogue street dog “management” efforts bear much in common with its treatment of slum dwellers in the scope of its urban renewal programs, with stated aims such as “beautification”, the intended beneficiaries of which are the city’s upper classes. One such project, the redevelopment of the Sabarmati River and its adjacent banks, has involved the violent eviction of thousands of urban working poor families from riverbank settlements to make way for chic downtown leisure space and luxury real estate. Many of the slum dwellers were displaced to a wasteland by the municipal landfill at Pirana, adjacent to where the street dogs were dumped. Researchers reported the poisoning death of “resettled” children who had taken to feeding on wild weeds due to the lack of affordable food in the vicinity. Infants, and pregnant women trying to make it to hospitals in the city died due to severe temperatures. Displaced persons suffered a drastic decline in living conditions, and a sharp increase in poverty indicators.
In this paper I will explore the parallel, violent effacement of both slum dwellers and street dogs in India’s push for urban renewal, specifically in Ahmedabad. I will explore the implied classification of both street dogs and the urban poor as contaminating encroachers whose presence in the city threatens the neo-liberal vision of modern urban India designed by and for upper class consumers. Urban planners’ collaboration and entanglement with commercial interests will be made clear, as will their disqualification of street dogs and slum dwellers as constituents whose needs are worthy of consideration in city planning.

Lisa Warden ( is a formerly Asia-based, currently UK-based animal advocate and independent researcher with a PhD in Political Philosophy and French Literature. In India in 2008 she founded the philanthropic research and advisory group DOGSTOP, aimed at street dog population management and rabies eradication. Her area of research, writing and implementation lies at the intersection of dog population management and critical animal studies.

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