While many people are forgetting their humanity during the Covid-19 situation, Purbi Patra, the founder of the animal organization, is still performing her duty for the stray animals even after suffering from Covid.
Many believe that stray animals are no one’s responsibility. But Ms Patra changed this notion by rescuing a number of homeless animals with serious health issues from across Bhubaneswar.
How did it all begin? What inspired you to do something for these stray animals?
I had compassion towards animals since childhood, especially for dogs. Maybe it was hereditary which came from my grandparents. They had a lot of pets. In a later phase, it gradually happened to me that whenever I came across stray animals or animals in distress along the roads, I felt like helping them. Initially, in Bhubaneswar, I was unable to find whom to contact for their help. Then, I started helping dogs on my own and later started helping other animals. I also left non-veg and eventually left all the animal products and became a vegan.
As I had done my MBA in marketing, I was working as a professor of marketing management at an institute in Hyderabad, later joined Krupajal institute in Bhubaneswar as an assistant. Professor. In 2014, I moved to Delhi where I also worked as a professor at IP University. With this, I also needed experience to help those stray animals so I worked as a volunteer with many organizations. I learned from them about the treatment of animals, their medicines. Also, I learned how to run an organization. Later, I quit my job and started my initiative in 2015.
I had plans to start something in Bhubaneswar. Since I was associated with Maneka Gandhi’s organization in Delhi, they offered me a place for PFA (People for Animals) in Bhubaneswar, which was lying vacant, and suggested that I start from there. Although I started there, due to some internal politics, I told Maneka Madam that I wanted to make a fresh start from somewhere else and she agreed. Thereafter, I started the Animal Welfare Trust (AWT), Ekamra at a small rented place in a residential area in Patrapada. I had around 20 animals then, which I had rescued from many places. Now we have at least 150 animals. Meanwhile, some get relieved, some are adopted and so on.
What challenges did you come across in managing your animal shelter?
Mostly, we rescue the animals that are injured in accidents, paralyzed and the orphan puppies of stray dogs. The problem here in Odisha is mainly scarcity of manpower. We do not have adequate staff to maintain the animals. Very few agree to work for taking care of the animals, especially dogs. So, I personally spend most of my time here to train them. Besides, people here do not have much awareness about the purpose of animal shelters, so they often take us for granted. Though we get calls for rescuing animals in distress from people but we do not get any support from them. Such shelters mostly run on public funding and we do not get any grants or aid from government or corporate. Most of the time we do not have much resources to rescue some animals or take care of them. We have our own limitations. On an average, we get 10-15 rescue calls. But addressing each of them is difficult on our part. Some people do not understand this for which we often face criticism from them.
Have you ever thought of giving up?
Such an initiative is a one way road. I first decided to start the shelter in 2013 and after that I mentally prepared myself in two years. Then, I started it in 2015 end. Once you start an animal shelter, you can never go back. I have the responsibility of 150 animals, who are totally dependent on me. Under any circumstances, I cannot leave them. Even at present I am suffering from Covid. Instead of going home and take rest, I have quarantined myself at the shelter to take care of them.
What has been the difference between the criticism and the appreciation you receive?
Obviously when a lot of people appreciate me, I hardly care about the critics. Like I said, people often tend to keep a lot of expectations without realizing the practical problems we face. Some people say that you have started an organisation so you are bound to help all the animals, but we do have our constraints. When we fail to meet their level of expectations, they troll us. Whenever you do something good, there are people who will drag you
Since you are Covid-19 positive at present, what problems are you facing under such circumstances?
Our rescue activities have completely stopped due to the situation which is a major problem. Our ambulance driver is also infected with Covid-19. So, we have declared that our rescue activities cannot be resumed until we are out of quarantine. Another problem is, since the shelter is on the outskirts, we procure the edibles and other perishable food items from Bhubaneswar, since I am infected, I am facing problems in arranging food. However, there are some volunteers helping us in getting food. This apart, the other staffs are at risk as I am under quarantine in the shelter.
What message would you like to give to the dog lovers?
We repeatedly insist people adopt dogs. People usually take dogs from breeders and later abandon them which are rescued by us. It is not a healthy practice to buy puppies from breeders. They exploit the female dogs for their income. That should be stopped. If you adopt a dog from us or from even along the road and take care of them properly at home, they will be equivalent to any good breed of dog. They are maintenance-free, they are more adjustable to our climate and they are also less prone to diseases. Even celebrities and cricketers outside Odisha are now also promoting the adoption of Indian breeds of dogs from shelter and roads. The mentality of people needs to be changed. Since we are Indians, we should be proud of our breed.
Written By Subhra Kar