Appointed as the animal welfare officer by the government of India, Manoj Oswal has been actively involved in fighting for the protection of animals and their rights and prevention of abuse towards them. Recently, he was arrested for posting remarks of ‘free will’ on his official website. Soumabha Nandi speaks to the activist about the same.
Q: You were recently arrested, tell us about it.
A: I was arrested for expressing my views on my website. But I fail to understand, is the cyber crime department of Pune Police the new censor board for Internet? It is shocking that a simple expression of thoughts and opinions was labelled as a heinous crime. My website has no new information as it has already been presented in the high court and media earlier. I am sure that the court will quash the FIR without much of a debate.
Q: Cases of animal abuse are on a rise in the city. Do you think citizens and authorities lack compassion towards animals?
A: A majority of citizens is indifferent to animals but there is a growing tribe of people who have empathy for animals and their rights. Everyday, I receive around 10-20 calls from people reporting a variety of animal issues. It is encouraging to see
people report such cases.
As far as the authorities are concerned, they are just another set of citizens with certain powers and duties. There are good and bad people in the administration. The problem is that there is a lack of efficiency in our system. A good officer’s work somewhere gets lost among a host of other shameful activities.
Q: Recently, the PMC dog pound was in the news because of lack of basic amenities. What is your view in this regard?
A: The agency hired by the PMC was least interested in animals. They neither insisted on proper infrastructure for animals nor got it installed themselves or allowed volunteers to do so. But the entire PMC cannot be blamed either. The PMC officers unfortunately work under tremendous pressure of the corporators and politicians. The dog squad is entirely at the whims of corporators who have no respect or consideration for the law or the officers who work honestly.
Q: In spite of several laws for protection of animals, there has been an alarming rate of incidents of animal abuse. What is the reason?
A: India has the best animal laws in terms of what it covers and how wide its implications are. But the implementation is non-existent. At the same time, a majority of policemen, particularly senior officials, are willing to help if they are provided with proper guidance as they are not aware of animal laws.