India Interior

Every dog has its day in Mehsana

Usha Rai | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on September 08, 2017

Serve all Members of the Jahu Mataji Sevak Parivar Trust prepare 3,200 rotis a day to feed stray animals in Mehsana, Gujarat

No one goes hungry Volunteers fan out across the city with chappatis to feed dogs, goats and even pigs

How a town comes together to feed and minister to its homeless canines

There are stories galore, and even videos from the West of dog whisperers who can calm aggressive dogs or heal those with behavioural problems. Right in our backyard, too, in the Mehsana district of Gujarat, we have a dedicated band of dog nurturers. Homeless canines of all shapes and sizes, whether injured or sick, including many with serious skin infections, are regularly fed and given medical aid by the Jahu Mataji Sevak Parivar Trust of Unjha.

This practice of caring for street dogs was started in 2004 by Arvindbhai Barot, a retired government officer, and his family. Today, several other families have joined in the effort, deeming it a seva (service) for the animals. Though the focus is largely on dogs, all animals receive the trust’s tender loving care. The movement has 565 women volunteers. Each day, for the last 13 years, 70-80 of them have gathered at the Swam Seva Sadan to make 3,200 chappatis for the animals. Male volunteers collect the chappatis and fan out across the city to feed dogs, goats and even pigs. The chappatis are cooked with a bit of oil or ghee to make them tastier.

No bitter medicine

The medicines are camouflaged in ladoos and sweet biscuits to coax the animals to ingest them. Though there are two or three vets working with the trust, all the volunteers too have picked up skills to treat ailments ranging from skin infection to ticks and fever.

Old cars have been deployed as ambulances to transport injured or rescued animals to hospital. With more people joining in, the trust has opened 2,000 service centres for dogs and other animals across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Arvind Bhai first started feeding street dogs on his way to office. His son Bhavesh, who is a contractor, says the people of Mehsana were used to looking after stray cattle, but dogs had been neglected until his father drew attention to them.

Today Arvind Bhai is assisted by five other retired senior citizens in running the trust. The annual expense is ₹15-18 lakh. The Seva Sadan is adjacent to the Jahumata temple, and people donate generously, both in cash and kind. After harvest, farmers donate four to five bags of wheat each. At 150 kg daily, the requirement of flour is a whopping 50,000 kg annually. The trust also makes a mixture of wheat flour, sugar and edible oil for feeding ants.

Interestingly, the people of Mehsana do not adopt the street dogs or give them a home. Likening it to caging birds, they believe the animals should be free to roam and live life on their own terms.

The trust also collects old clothes, shoes and bed sheets for distribution to the needy in the tribal areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on September 08, 2017
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