The Indians have been seen as a hatred bank for animals, especially when it comes to stray dogs. They are seen as pests and just a nuisance in general. We have even had an inhuman case of politicians marching with dead dogs tied to a poll earlier. Hence it comes as a relief when people like Maneka Gandhi show love and selfless attitude to these poor and helpless souls.
Panchot village, near Mehsana in Gujrat leaves us in shock as it goes above all measures of humanity in taking care of the homeless dogs. In Panchot, the dogs are landed sentries who have benefitted in crores over the years.
The land of the Panchot village is not actually in the dogs’ names. According to Times Of India, an informal village trust named ‘Madh ni Pati Kutariya Trust’ holds about 21 bighas of land on behalf of the dogs. All the income from the land, mainly through annual auctions for farming, is set aside for the dogs. Also, the proximity of the land to the Mehsana bypass sets it’s estimated value at almost 3.5 crore rupees per bigha.
Chhaganbhai Patel, the president of the trust, says that the concept of setting aside for the dogs originates from the village’s long history of ‘jivdaya’ i.e. compassion for animals.
The tradition started about 70-80 years ago, with richer families donating for charity a piece of land that was not easy to maintain, says Patel. He mentions that land did not cost much at that time and that in some cases, the land was donated as the owners could not afford to pay tax.
Patel, who’s aunt had donated 2 bighas says:
“None of the land owners has ever come back to reclaim their share, irrespective of their financial condition. It is considered taboo to feed off the land which has been written off for animals or social service.”
Every year, each plot in the trust’s land bank is auctioned before the sowing season for 1 year of tilling rights. The money which comes close to Rs 1 lakh, goes into sustaining the trust.
Dashrath Patel who is one of the descendants of the families that had donated 1.5 bigha land for the cause, says that the village takes pride in the well-oiled system of serving animals that they have created.
He is also the husband of the current village sarpanch, Kantaben. Dashrath says:
“One of the reasons could be the religious nature of the population. The village has 15 temples for a population of about 6,000. The culture of caring is passed from one generation to the next. I remember joining the community initiative to make sheera for the dogs about 60 years ago. Even the flour mill owner doesn’t charge us.”
Volunteers load rotlas and crushed flatbread into a handcart and start off the distribution drive at about 7.30pm every day. Twice a month, they even serve the dogs laddoos.
Govind Patel, who is one of the volunteers of the distribution drive, says:
“It takes about an hour to complete the round of 11-odd spots where there are large populations of stray dogs. The dogs living in the village are fed by the local population. The handcart serves dogs living near farms and on the outskirts.”
The village engages in reaching out for the service of birds and other animals too. They are a shining example of showing compassion and humanity towards all species on earth. We could all learn from their initiative and put aside this outdated and rather unreasonable practice of looking down on stray dogs.