Three participants in the Mountain Marathon, a 21-km event held in Nainital on Sunday morning, were attacked and bitten by stray dogs and monkeys as horrified onlookers looked on.
Arun Adhikari, a resident of Almora and Lakshman Singh, a Nainital resident who were chased and bitten by dogs as they were running in the Ayarpatta area, told TOI, “A pack of dogs suddenly appeared when we were near the Raj Bhawan and started chasing us. We tried to dodge them but they did not relent and bit us,” said Singh who is being treated for dog bites along with the other victims in a government hospital in the city.
While two participants were bitten by dogs, one person was attacked by monkeys. Pramod Patni, who was bitten by a monkey, said, “It seems no one is safe in the town any more. Although a big crowd of over 500 participants and onlookers had gathered for the marathon but despite that, the animals were not deterred and attacked us.”
The incident accentuated the grave canine and simian menace that the lake town has been grappling with. Last month, a 10-year-old girl, a tourist from Rajasthan, had died after being chased by strays on Mall Road. Earlier this month, over 500 residents had taken out a protest march exhorting the municipal corporation and the district administration to take immediate action against the strays. Uttarakhand high court has also intervened on multiple occasions asking the administration to rein in the animals but not much improvement seems to have happened on the ground.
According to Nainital municipal corporation, there are over 1,600 stray dogs roaming the streets ofNainital. In 2015, 1,093 dog bite cases were reported in the town whereas in 2016, 774 people were bit by strays. This year, the number of dog bite cases reported till August 25 have been more than 600. Commenting on Sunday’s incident as well as the steps taken to check the menace of strays, RohitashSharma, executive officer of Nainital municipal Corporation said, “We are doing everything possible to address this problem. Around 900 dogs have been sterilised this year so far. Sterilisation measures are being taken for monkeys as well.”
Meanwhile, the fear of being attacked by the animals has prompted many residents to resort to buying equipments like slingshots, airguns and canes to protect themselves. Shopkeepers on the Mall Road have reported a jump of at least 40-50% in the sale of canes and sticks while the sale of airgunshas also registered an increase. Parents are also taking extra care of small children who are most vulnerable, often accompanying them to school and escorting them back to avoid any untoward incident.