Menu
Account

One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission

 
 

It was a hot sultry day in the midst of an unforgiving summer when I visited two shelter homes for old, ailing, and injured animals in the north Indian city of Faridabad near Delhi. They are run by activist Ravi Dubey, whose day starts with feeding about 70 animals, routine treatments of the injured and ailing ones, and even attending emergency calls about animals involved in accidents.

As I entered the biggish enclosure of Aastha (meaning “faith”) Shelter Home, I was welcomed by a sweet dog, which came running, wagging his tail and did not leave my side till I had finished taking photos. The shelter was lined on three sides by several cages, which mainly housed dogs and cats. Most of them had collars around their necks, which meant they were under treatment for some injury or disease.

It was a humble setup; the floor was not cemented, but covered with dust and the occasional wailing of sick dogs and the constant buzz of flies broke the silence. The enclosure was dark except for a stream of light that entered through the sunroof.

As I kept shooting, Ravi quietly hung around, patiently answering my questions and instructing his staff, with a calm demeanor. Looking at him it would be impossible to gauge the kind of pressures that he handles in a day. He considers himself lucky if he gets the support and empathy of the layman, as there is little awareness about animal welfare in India, even in big cities.

I got a taste of this when suddenly a group of angry neighbors stormed into the shelter looking for a stray dog named Kalu (Black). These people had brought Kalu to the shelter after a minor injury, but he also had parvovirus and passed away days later. The residents were inconsolable, and angry; I could not help feeling miserable as I watched them bad mouth the staff. This is a thankless job that requires endless patience and determination to get through a day, on a daily basis.

After shooting at Aastha, I visited the neighboring shelter called Gau Sewa Chikitsa Sansthan (Institute of Medicine for Cow Service), inhabited by old, abandoned and injured cows. Dubey grows crops in nearby fields to feed the cows.

It was almost mid-day and my next tour was of the adjoining roads and open fields to see some of the around 250 cemented tubs installed by Ravi about three years ago for the street animals across the city. Called the Project Summer Lifeline, the first-of-its-kind in India. Trenches have also been dug up in the Aravalli hills areas and a water tanker goes around the whole city filling up these tubs, twice a day.

The People For Animals Trust, an umbrella body covering all the initiatives by Ravi, also educates local residents and shop owners in the adjoining areas about the usage of the tubs. It was heartening to see footprints of wild boars and buffaloes near the water embankments; I was told that many wild animals visit these water holes at night. When the temperatures rise up to 48 degrees Celsius in the peak of summers, when merely stepping out of your house could cause a heat stroke, one can only imagine how beneficial these tubs are for the street animals.

Through Project Roti, Ravi feeds hundreds of rotis, or Indian bread, to monkeys and cows daily. I was lucky to shoot this entire process on a rain-washed day. As my car approached the Gurgaon Aravalli road, hundreds of monkeys and langurs appeared from the adjoining wooded area, as if on cue. Of course they wait for this daily ritual, as I learnt later.

Ravi’s dream project is to buy land to build a hospital-cum-shelter. The existing shelters are rented, which doesn’t allow for expansion to accommodate the ever-growing number of animals that need care.

Here are some pictures from my shoots.

Sharmistha Dutta writes for StoriesAsia.

One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
An injured cat which was brought in a few weeks ago.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
Most of the dogs had collars around their necks due to injury or disease.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
The cages for dogs and cats, to protect them from each other.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
An old and ailing dog lies helplessly, while food is cooked on the side.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
One of the staff lights incense sticks to drive away flies.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
Ravi inspects a puppy.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
A little puppy severely injured in a road accident was brought in. He was given first aid.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
An injured dog at the shelter had contracted parvovirus and died.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
People who had brought in a street dog, which died at the shelter, were inconsolable.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
A staff member sprays medicine on an injured cow.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
A large machine is used to shred crops, which are then fed to the cows several times in a day.
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
Hundreds of rotis are fed to monkeys and cows daily.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
A water tanker goes around the whole city filling up trenches, twice a day.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
The Trust also educates and encourages local residents and shop owners in the adjoining areas about animal welfare.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
The cement tubs provide water for thirsty street animals.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
One Indian Man’s Animal Rescue Mission
The two shelters can hardly accommodate the ever-growing number of animals in need.
Image Credit: Sharmistha Dutta
Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief