Indian Dog Breeds Give Teeth to PM Modi’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission

In his Mann ki Baat address 10 months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged that security agencies include Indian breeds rather than foreign ones in their dog squads. If this is done, he said, it would be a great leap in the direction of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Following these remarks, most security agencies have taken steps to train and enlist Indian breeds of repute like Mudhol hounds, Rajapalayam and Rampur Hounds in their ranks. Mudhol Hounds played a key role in helping Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha empire and inspiration for PM Modi, in establishing Hindavi Swarajya. Now, it seems, the idea of including dogs of Indian breeds in the service of the nation will get a further push.

It was the month of May in the year 2020. Officials of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had gone to the Prime Minister to brief him about the challenges the agency faces in the times to come. Shortly after taking power in 2014, PM Modi had put special emphasis on controlling the movement of drugs and narcotics in the country, and preparations had started. After review meetings with the home ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office, the senior officials of NCB were with the PM to brief him about the situation.

PM Modi suggested the use of dogs of Indian breeds

During the discussion, PM Modi suggested that security agencies use dogs to check the smuggling of drugs from across the border. He also advised them to train those dogs that are found at the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka, which were used by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in establishing Hindavi Swarajya. The Maratha hero had taken on the mighty army of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Shivaji has been a role model for PM Modi and he read about the dog squad of the warrior in history books.

PM Modi suggested the use of Mudhol Hounds

The NCB officials understood that PM Modi was alluding to those breeds of dogs that are found at the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka, famously known as Mudhol Hounds. There is an interesting story about them. Traders in the middle ages who travelled through the ancient Silk Route, used dogs for their security. This route witnessed long caravans of traders who would travel from China to Europe via Iran and Arab countries. The dogs used for the security of the traders were of Arabic and Turkish breeds. These are also known as Saluki in West Asia. Later, the Arabic and Turkish breeds were crossed and the new breed was called Caravan or Carvani.

Shivaji had a huge squad of hounds

This Carvani breed was used by Shivaji. These dogs are very faithful and always ready to protect their masters and keep them informed about the enemy. Along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, there is a famous story about these dogs saving the life of Shivaji’s elder son Sambhaji and that is why Shivaji loved these dogs and started using them against his enemies. It is said that he was always surrounded by these dogs wherever he went and, precisely for this reason, these dogs are also called the Maratha breed. They were trained before they were recruited in Shivaji’s army.

The dogs of foreign breeds were introduced during British rule

After the decline of the Marathas and the establishment of British rule in the country, the use of Indian breeds started dwindling. Until 1857, even the British were much afraid of these breeds as they used to jump and attack them, as for the canines, the faces of the intruders were very different from those of their masters. But by the end of the 19th century, the use of these dogs decreased and their species started vanishing. During British rule, the kings of India started keeping dogs of foreign breeds that were bred in cool climes.

The ruler of Mudhol worked for preservation of these indigenous dogs

The-then ruler of Mudhol, Malojirao Raje Ghorpade, was the person who worked to preserve this Indian breed of dogs. The ruler was associated with the Sisodiya clan of Mewar and was born in 1884. After getting hold of the reins of his kingdom, he took a fancy to the dogs used by the hunters and tribes of the area. These dogs had special traits of jumping and attacking the enemy with great speed and this attracted the ruler. He started conserving these breeds. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he had visited Great Britain and had gifted the-then monarch two dogs of Indian breed. The British monarch named these dogs Mudhol Hounds.

Mudhol ruler’s wife was from Gujarat, the home state of PM Modi

Malojirao died in 1939 and his wife Parvati Devi took charge and was the regent of her adolescent child Bhairav Singh Ghorpade. She was originally from Saurashtra’s Moda riyasat and belonged to the Jadeja royal family. Her son Bhairav Singh was married into the Jadeja royal family of Rajkot. Saurashtra became a part of the state of Gujarat, which was formed in 1960, and PM Modi belongs to this place. It is a strange coincidence that the breed of hunting dogs, which played a significant role in the Maratha army about a century ago and was conserved by the Mudhol royal family, has once again been given its due by PM Modi.

The first dog squad of independent India was formed in Chennai

For almost a hundred years, the dogs of Indian breeds had lost their importance. When colonial rule came to an end in 1947, Mudhol too became a part of India. Five years after India got independence, the police dog squad was formed. The process started from Madras, now Chennai. Madras City Police had formed a dog squad in 1952 under the leadership of sub-inspector Kannaiya Naidu. The dogs were brought from Germany and were of the Alsatian breed. The Madras Police opened a formal dog training centre in 1956 and then other states followed suit.

Raja Bhadri established dog squad in Shimla in 1957

In northern India, Shimla had the first dog squad. At that time, Himachal Pradesh was a union territory. Under the guidance of the-then lieutenant governor of Himachal Pradesh Raja Bajrang Bahadur Singh Bhadri, this dog squad had a German Shepherd brought from Ireland as its first member. In those days, it cost 250 pounds. This dog was called Hero. Eventually, around a dozen dogs were included in the squad.

Raja Bhadri prepared the first dog manual

Raja Bajrang Bahadur Singh Bhadri originally belonged to the Bhadri riyasat in Uttar Pradesh in the pre-Independence era that is now part of the Pratapgarh district. Uday Pratap Singh, the father of Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiya, was adopted by Raja Bhadri. Raja Bhadri had prepared the first dog manual, ‘How to train dogs’, of independent India. At that time, he was greatly benefitted by the information given by Major JW Goldsmith who had come to establish a dog house for the Maharaja of Jind. He also interacted with Jimmi Bharucha who supplied dogs and horses for films in Bombay.

Raja Bhadri had also trained the dog of Nehru

Raja Bhadri had asked Himachal Pradesh police to establish a dog squad when authorities were struggling to solve two cases of murders in the UT. He had also trained, Madhu, the Golden Retriever that belonged to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru would send his dogs to him every year for refresher courses. Raja Bhadri himself had many dogs and the one dearest to him was Motu, which would eat the same food that he did.

Dog squads in other states were established in the 1970s

In the home state of Raja Bhadri, Uttar Pradesh, the dog squad was established in 1962. In Karnataka, it was set up in 1965. In other states also, dog squads were established after this as they became aware of the importance of these canines. Presently, every state has a dog squad that helps in tracing explosives, criminals, and drugs.

BSF campus got National Training Centre for Dogs in 1970

The Indian Army started recruiting trained dogs in the 1960s when its RVC Centre came into existence in Meerut. In March 1960, the training of dogs started there and ten years after that the BSF got its first National Training Centre for Dogs (NTCD) in 1970. Here, dogs were trained and supplied to all the paramilitary organisations and states; their handlers too were trained here. Now, most of the paramilitary forces have their own training centres. But this facility is still functioning as a nodal centre for the home ministry where dogs are trained for friendly nations also. This facility was given the status of Centre of Excellence in 2001.

Only dogs of foreign breeds were included in dog squads

Unfortunately, all the organisations in the post-Independence era had only foreign breeds of dogs for the armed forces, paramilitary and all other uses in the country. This was despite the fact that India had a long tradition of hunting dogs that were also less expensive to train and maintain.

PM Modi in August 2020 appealed for use of indigenous dog breeds

On August 30, 2020, PM Modi had touched upon the issue of dogs of Indian breeds in his Mann ki Baat address. He had described the contributions of trained dogs like Balram, Bhavna, Cracker and Rocky, and emphasised on the need of using dogs of Indian breeds for different roles as part of the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat push. He had asked why there was no place for dogs of Indian breeds in the dog squads. In the same vein, he mentioned the different breeds of Indian dogs including Mudhol Hounds, Himachali Hounds, Rajapalayam, Kanni, Chippi Parai and Kombai. All of them had a rich history but were neglected in modern times.

PM Modi had reviewed NTCD in 2018

The Prime Minister had the first-hand experience of this when he was in Tekanpur in January 2018 in connection with a DG-level conference. Near Gwalior, Tekanpur is the place where the BSF training centre was established in February 1966 to protect the borders of the country. Here the officers and staff of BSF are trained and this process started in 1966. This training centre is huge and police from all over the country are given training here to handle tear gas. The tear gas unit here has prepared a special dye marker on the suggestion from PM Modi that can be jetted from water cannons. This stains the clothes of those who are the target and this stain does not go easily from the clothes or the body. This helps the police track them down. On January 7 and 8, 2018, PM Modi had an opportunity to interact with the DGs of the states and paramilitary forces and he also visited the NTCD where he witnessed how training was given to dogs. Most of these dogs were of foreign breeds and it’s probably here that the thought of why India is not atmanirbhar (self-reliant) in this area entered his mind.

PM Modi launched Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission in May 2020

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic all over the world, PM Modi had raised the slogan of Atmanirbhar Bharat on May 12, 2020, officially, and announced a corpus fund of Rs 20 lakh crore. In the next 15 days, the whole scheme of Atmanirbhar Bharat was unveiled.

PM Modi enumerated the importance of dogs of Indian breeds

After three months, on August 30, 2020, PM Modi suggested that security agencies of the country go for indigenous breeds of dogs for their dog squads. He said that these indigenous dogs are best suited for Indian conditions and their upkeep will be less expensive than that of dogs of foreign breeds.

After PM Modi’s appeal, India focused on domestic breeds of dogs

Both the common people and security agencies now turned their gaze towards the indigenous breeds of dogs after only looking at German Shepherds, Labradors, Belgian Shepherds, and Dobermans for years. Security agencies started thinking about including these domestic breeds in their dog squads.

ICAR started genetic registration of indigenous dogs

When PM Modi mentioned the use of domestic breeds, some security agencies were using a few of them on a limited scale. For example, the Army, NSG and CISF had already used Mudhol Hounds. The CRPF was using Kombai. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) also started studying them and, on the appeal of PM Modi, began the genetic registration of indigenous breeds of dogs including Rajapalayam.

But now the security agencies are taking steps to use indigenous breeds in a big way after the Prime Minister mentioned them. Now Mudhol Hounds are the centre of attraction.

Karnataka started the conservation of Mudhol Hounds a decade earlier

It was barely ten years ago that Karnataka took steps to conserve the breed of Mudhol Hounds. The chief minister of the BJP government in the state, BS Yediyurappa inaugurated the Canine Research and Information Centre (CRIC) on September 24, 2009. The institute was given the task of conserving the Mudhol Hounds. The facility was established at Bagalkot’s Timmapur village, just 16 kilometres away from the Mudhol town whose Maharaja, for the first time, had taken steps to protect this breed of dogs almost 100 years ago.

CRIC’s efforts led to the increase in number of Mudhol Hounds

This institute was established on 40 acres of land with an initial budget of Rs 5 crore. At the time, only a thousand Mudhol Hounds were around. Local breeders would sell them to dog lovers. Within a decade of this institute coming up, the number of Mudhol Hounds increased to above 3,000. Now every year, around 500 Mudhol Hounds are sold and 150 of these are sold by CRIC itself. People are also breeding these dogs and earning good money. One Mudhol Hound costs Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000.

Karnataka government’s institute supplies dogs

The Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University’s Canine Research and Information Centre supplied half a dozen Mudhol Hounds in 2016 to the Indian Army for its Meerut centre that has been a major dog training centre of the country since 1960. After getting trained, these dogs are used in Jammu and Kashmir, and elsewhere.

Paramilitary forces also came forward to use dogs of indigenous breed

After the Indian Army, now ITBP and SSB are also using Mudhol Hounds. The ITBP is deploying these dogs in its anti-Naxal operations, the SSB is using them at the Indo-Nepal border. In 2019, even the NSG took the help of Mudhol Hounds to fight terrorism.

States recruiting Mudhol Hounds in their squads

After the Army, ITBP, SSB and NSG, now states have also started recruiting Mudhol Hounds in their dog squads. Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have already enlisted them. After this, Karnataka police started their recruitment from Bagalkot where a Mudhol Hound breeding centre is working. When Hero, the Labrador in Karnataka’s dog squad, retired, his space was filled by Krish, who is a Mudhol Hound.

MP Police has also joined efforts

In Madhya Pradesh, three pairs of Mudhol Hounds were included in the dog squad. Along with them, two pairs each of Rampur Greyhounds and Rajapalayam, and a pair each of Kombai, Chippiparai and Kanni has also found a place in the squad. They will be deployed in the field after undergoing nine months of training.

Air Force is also using indigenous breeds

The Indian Air Force has also acquired two pairs of Mudhol Hounds from the Karnataka breeding centre. These dogs will be used at the Agra airbase to keep birds away from the air space. These birds are a major threat to fighter planes. Mudhol Hounds are supposed to be very good at this task as they are very swift.

ITBP and SSB raised doubts about the efficiency of domestic breeds

This year in January, ITBP and SSB’s dog trainers had published a joint research paper in the K9 Journal of National Police. In this paper, doubts were raised about the working efficiency of Mudhol Hounds. These dogs have been praised for their faithfulness and their health and speed, but the trainers say that they cannot be trained easily as they forget their training and try to disappear in the crowd. They have a slender neck and the collar is not able to fit properly. They say, their sniffing power is also not very reliable as they are not able to concentrate on any one thing.

BSF disagrees with ITBP-SSB observations

The BSF does not agree with the assertion of ITBP and SSB and says that it is relying more and more on the indigenous breeds. The trainers at NTCD are very appreciative of these indigenous breeds: Mudhol Hounds, Rajapalayam and Rampur Hounds.

After becoming the DG of BSF, Rakesh Asthana concentrated more on the training of indigenous breeds.

Asthana became the new DG of BSF on August 18, 2020, and was also in charge of the NCB. This helped in unearthing many rackets of drug peddling that included the names of some prominent people from the film world. When he came to the BSF as the new chief, Asthana asked his officers to use indigenous breeds of dogs instead of foreign ones. Before Asthana joined the BSF, in October 2019, four Rampur Hounds were brought from the NTCD. They are supposed to be a crossbreed of Greyhounds and Afghan Hounds. They were also used by the Nawab of Rampur.

Dogs of Indian breeds being trained at NTCD

Within two months of his Asthana joining, the BSF brought Mudhol Hounds from Karnataka’s CRIC in October 2020. In December 2020, the NTCD also purchased two Rajapalayam dogs and is now training these three indigenous dogs. The Rajapalayam city in Tamil Nadu is on the Madurai-Cochin route. The dogs found in this area are called the Rajapalayam breed.

The white Rajapalayam are famously known as ‘ghost dogs’

Rajapalayam city was very famous during the reign of the Pallava and Chola kings. Rajapalayam dogs are white in colour and that is why the local people call them ‘ghost dogs’. Their sniffing power is matchless and they are very quick and swiftly nab their prey.

It is easier to train dogs of foreign breeds

It is difficult to train the Mudhol Hounds, Rampur Hounds and Rajapalayam, say experts. It is comparatively easier to train dogs of foreign origin like Labrador, German Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd and Doberman. These dogs can be kept chained in the house of their masters. Most of them, despite their heavy build, are quiet due to the cold weather they belong to and are easy to train. This is the reason why most of the security agencies have been using them.

There is less information available about indigenous breeds

The biggest reason for using foreign breeds for security tasks is that the elaborate training process has developed over time for them in the past two hundred years. There are ample bodies of research available on them. Their behaviour and body language, all are well-documented. Information for their training is easily available on the internet.

The training for indigenous breeds is different

There is a dearth of information about the indigenous breeds of dogs and there has been virtually no research on them in the past few hundred years. Very little is known about their habits, nature, etc. There is no manual available for them when one wants to use them for security purposes. The foreign breeds are trained on the same manual that was designed and developed in Germany.

The behaviours of foreign and domestic breeds are different

Indigenous dogs cannot be trained the way foreign breeds are. Both are different in their nature and behaviour, and their background is different as well. Their social and cultural backdrops also differ. Most of the dogs of Europe and America are of a domestic background and their training is easy as they live with their masters, sleep in their beds and eat with them. They can easily have a collar on their necks and have regular routines.

Compared to them, the Indian hounds are different and they are not allowed inside the house, and this has cultural and historical reasons. Most of the Indians who keep dogs have foreign breeds and most of them are for decorative purposes.

Indian breeds are hounds by nature

Indian dogs spend most of their time in the jungles and keep running. They do not recognise anyone apart from their masters. It is not easy to make them pets. They do not like the glitter of city life and are not comfortable in crowds.

But this does not mean that they cannot be trained. The Indian Army has been using Mudhol Hounds for the past 4-5 years with ease. Rampur Hounds have been in use for a long time. As natural hounds, they are much more useful in tracking suspicious people and things.

NTCD has a three-tier training course

BSF doctors and trainers at NTCD have started a new training course for the local breeds that is very different from what is used for foreign breeds. The indigenous varieties are used for breeding at the Tekanpur breeding centre so that their cubs get habituated to staying in a controlled environment.

With this very thinking, the training for indigenous breeds is done in three stages. In the first stage, their behaviour, natural power and their relationship with human beings is studied. In the second stage, they are allowed to develop a natural rapport with their trainers so that they can be trained. Their body language is watched closely, and now it is felt that even the trainers need to be trained so they can train these dogs.

Training has been positive so far

In the third stage, they are trained for different tasks. So far, it has been found that the Indian breeds are good for protection as there has been a history of dogs guarding their masters in India. And they have even sacrificed their lives in this process.

They are very good at running and jumping

The Indian breeds may look lean and thin compared to the foreign ones but they are quicker and have great speed. They can jump long distances and put in more hours at work continuously. They can assume speeds of 50 km per hour and can jump a distance of six feet from where they stand. The research on Rampur Hounds shows that they are very good at searching for explosives and identifying something and their success rates have been around 50%. It is expected to reach 80% in some time.

Indian breeds are good for anti-Naxal operations

These Indian breeds have proved very useful in anti-Naxal operations. The CRPF has been using them in searching for the guerrillas successfully. Rampur Hounds and Mudhol Hounds are also useful in this as they are good at running in the jungle and looking for their prey. Foreign breeds are of heavy build and they get tired easily and cannot run long distances like indigenous breeds.

Indian breeds are less expensive

Compared to foreign breeds, maintaining Indian breeds is less expensive. They do not need acclimatisation as they are not from foreign lands, and are all-weather hounds. Compared to them, foreign dogs are costlier, they are accustomed to living in cooler places, and their maintenance is expensive. Their food is pricey while Indian dogs can eat anything and do not need special arrangements. They can also put in more hours of work and do not get tired easily

Their fitness is better than that of foreign dogs

Indian dogs are fitter than foreign dogs. Dogs like Labrador put on weight and are prone to many diseases, and very soon become unfit for use. A dog’s average lifespan is 12 years and its training is completed by the time it is one year old. It remains in service for the next 7 years. By the time they are 8, they retire. They are auctioned off, but some involved in sensitive tasks are given some other duties.

By the end of 2021, training of indigenous dogs will be completed

It is expected that by the end of 2021, NTCD of BSF will have indigenous dogs ready for use after the three-stage training and they will be deployed in 2022. Tekanpur has around 200 dogs and they are undergoing different stages of training. Most of them are new and some come for refresher courses. Considering the new challenges, their training has changed. BSF has four trained dogs in each battalion.

India will be atmanirbhar in the field of security dogs

BSF DG Rakesh Asthana had reviewed the training of indigenous dogs at Tekanpur. This centre is now giving training to indigenous dogs and preparing them to handle security challenges. The Commandant Vet of this centre, Dr Sandeep Gupta, says that by 2022, the first squad of indigenous dogs will be ready for duty. They have been trained to trace explosives and weapons and in other security-related uses, including identifying terrorists hiding in their rat holes.

The glory of indigenous dogs will return soon

Mudhol Hounds that helped Shivaji will be ready to serve the country again. On the eve of the platinum jubilee of Independence, India will take a giant step in the direction of being Atmanirbhar for which PM Modi has been toiling for the past year.

Security agencies like BSF have fulfilled the dream of PM Modi

Modi expects this from agencies like BSF. He has been of the view that with the passage of time, every institution should reinvent itself. This includes implementing new plans. PM Modi had laid out his thoughts on the visitor’s notebook, once kept in the security quarters of the Scindia royal household, at the Tekanpur centre on January 8, 2018, in Gujarati. He wrote: “The name is Border Security, but works beyond the border also. This is a place for methodical discipline. The education they get here, may that make their lives meaningful, may they achieve their goals, this is what I wish for them.”

Those who keep trying, are never defeated

This message of PM Modi is inspiring the BSF at the Tekanpur campus where doctors and trainers are now training indigenous dogs so that they can be used in the service of the nation. They remember this line that “those who keep trying, are never defeated”. They are full of confidence that they will succeed. The whole country is looking at them. The indigenous dogs will be in the mainstream to serve the country in the 21st century and this will be a step towards making India Atmanirbhar, as Modi has dreamt of. It will add to the glory of India.

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