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Four street dogs have a poll job on hand

By Sujeet Kumar, IANS,

Raipur : Lily, Sally, Kareena and the lone male Teja used to roam the streets, but they will soon be reporting for election duty in the restive, forested terrain of the Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. The job on hand will need all their dogged determination – sniffing out explosives.

The four street dogs, which ‘graduated’ from the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) in Bastar, will make a poll debut of sorts in the April 16 elections in the state. They have been specially deployed to the area known as a stronghold of Maoist rebels who have called for a poll boycott.

“The mongrels Lily, Sally, Kareena and Teja are going to Bastar for poll duty where guerrillas have laid landmines for years to prevent security forces from entering forested stretches,” Girdhari Nayak, additional director general, Chhattisgarh Armed Forces, told IANS.

He said, “The mongrels have got poll assignments for the first time in India.”

The four mongrels completed a nine-month explosive detection course in April last year at the CTJWC. They will now have to sniff out explosives up to 12 inches below the ground surface.

The officer said the street dogs will mainly be deployed for VIP security, de-mining and escorting polling parties in violence-hit pockets where Maoists may have buried landmines in bulk.

“These mongrels are tougher and sharper than labradors and alsatians that are favoured traditionally in India as sniffer dogs,” Nayak said.

“I found these street dogs more handy for police in thickly forested, Maoist-infested, difficult terrain as they can survive in high temperatures and walk up to 25 km on foot a day while labradors and alsatians are sensitive to climate.”

Brigadier (Retd) B.K. Ponwar, the CTJWC director, said: “Our mongrels are making their poll assignment debut in this elections, they will be deployed in Bastar’s terror ground to ensure safety. They will alert cops in case explosives are kept under the ground surface so that the democratic process takes place in right earnest.”

The state has 11 Lok Sabha seats that go to the polls in the first phase – April 16 – and police have a tough task ahead, especially in the backdrop of large-scale violence in the November assembly polls.

The CTJWC that trains policemen to “take on guerrillas like a guerrilla” had for the first time in India picked up four puppies from roadside locations and made them graduate in 2008 to replace elite alsatians and labrador sniffer dogs.

Ponwar remarked, “There is always a big gamble for the security forces taking labradors and alsatians to thick forested areas like Bastar where you can’t come out of the war zone for three to four days because they have a lot of veterinary problems.

“But street dogs hardly fall sick and can walk long distances in jungle terrain plus they are low maintenance and entail no purchase cost whereas one labradors or alsatians cost about Rs.85,000 each.”

(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])