Odisha Cab Driver's Arrest for Death of 4 Puppies Sparks Off Debate Over Rights

Bhubaneswar: The arrest of a taxi driver who run over four puppies in Bhubaneswar has sparked off a state-wide debate over rights of vehicle drivers versus the menace posed by stray animals roaming on the roads.

Kanhu Charan Giri, a taxi driver with ride-hailing service Ola, was arrested and brought to Chandrashekharpur police station in Bhubaneswar on Monday after a functionary of People for Animals, an NGO working for animal welfare, lodged a formal complaint against him on Sunday.

Giri, 35, had run over four puppies on the road in front of Highland Residence apartments at Shailashree Vihar on Sunday morning, according to the complaint. A security guard of the apartment block and a woman resident who witnessed the incident called out to Giri but he fled, the complaint adds.

Giri on his part said the incident was unintentional. “The puppies and their mother were sitting on the road. I slowed down and tried to avoid hitting them. But the puppies suddenly ran across the road. They came under the wheels of the car. I stopped and then left the spot. Getting arrested for this is an abuse of the law,” said Giri, who has been a driver for more than a decade and says he has never engaged in rash driving.

However, Jiban Ballabh Das, secretary of State Animal Welfare Board who had lodged a police complaint about the incident, disagreed. He had requested police to take action against the cab driver “who has killed four innocent puppies”.

“People driving vehicles carelessly on the roads and causing the death of stray animals means the laws enacted to protect animals are not being enforced properly. This arrest will serve as an example in the way of giving protection to stray animals roaming the streets,” said Das.

Meanwhile, Giri’s pregnant wife and their toddler son had to spend the entire day at the police station where Giri was held. He was freed on bail late in the evening, but he will have to defend himself against the charges in court, said Ranjukta Mohapatra, his wife.

“Who will deliberately run their vehicle on little puppies? It was an accident. Hundreds of stray dogs and puppies are roaming on the streets of Bhubaneswar. There are also so many stray cattle on the roads and driving has become dangerous for everyone. Should the government not first free the roads of stray animals?” asked Mohapatra.

The arrest sparked resentment among taxi drivers and private vehicle owners and drivers across Odisha. “While the death of the puppies is a sad incident, arresting the driver for this is stretching the law,” said Saroj Kumar, a taxi driver in Bhubaneswar.

“Hardly anyone in their right mind kills or harms puppies. The alacrity shown by animal welfare groups to ensure arrests for road accidents of this kind should be accompanied by constant campaigns by them to make roads free of stray animals and safe for all road users,” said Rabi Das, a senior journalist and commentator.