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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK

World: South Asia

Canine squads catch commuter cheats

The dog patrol is part of a campaign against ticketless travel

By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

A row has developed in Bombay following a decision by the railway authorities to deploy dogs to catch commuters travelling without tickets.

More than six million people use suburban trains in India's commercial capital every day.

The government has been forced to order an enquiry into the matter following opposition from both human rights and animal rights activists.

[ image: A well-trained team of Dobermans]
A well-trained team of Dobermans
Codenamed Fortress Check, the dog patrol operation was launched only a couple of weeks ago.

As part of a special campaign to catch ticketless travellers, a team of dogs was posted along with railway police personnel and tickets checkers on suburban train stations.

The brief to the well-trained members of the dog team was clear.

If a commuter attempts to dodge the ticket checker the dog is to bark. And if the ticketless traveller attempts an escape, the dog is to arrest him by grabbing his right arm between its jaws.

The railway authorities say the dogs, a team of no-nonsense looking Dobermans, have been trained not to bite.

They say their terror has yielded a record rise in fine collections on suburban rail routes.

[ image: The dog squad has led to record rise in fine collections]
The dog squad has led to record rise in fine collections
But despite an increase in revenue, the government has been forced to order an enquiry into this unique approach to ticketless travel following opposition from human rights and animal rights groups.

Human rights activists say it is inhuman to let dogs loose, however disciplined, on human beings.

Animal rights activists, on the other hand, have expressed concern about dogs getting hurt in Bombay's overcrowded platforms.

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