QUESTIONS for a CAUSE: An Interview With Ms. Gira Shah, Founder Member Jivdaya Trust

Posted on February 1, 2011 in Interviews

Stray animals are neglected and lack the resources and love available to pet animals. They often face problems due to human actions – stray animals like dogs and birds need the right kind of health care and facilities to live a better life. Jivdaya trust is one organization working in that direction. Our journalist A M Radhika got the opportunity to interview Gira Shah, the Founder of Jivdaya Trust and below are the excerpts from the interview. Read on.

AM Radhika: (R) Please tell us about Jivdaya. What all projects does it have?

Gira Shah: (GS) Jivdaya Charitable Trust started three and a half years ago. Our main aim is to provide free of cost treatment to stray animals and birds. We have two ambulances and 3-4 full time veterinarians. People call our help lines and inform us when an injured animal/bird is found in their surroundings. Our mobile van reaches there immediately, treats the animal and takes full care of the follow up responsibilities until the animal is completely well. Once the reports are made, our vets decide how many follow ups are needed depending on the severity of situation. There is only one duty on part of the complainant, to locate the animal for us so that our time is not wasted and fake calls are prevented. If an animal is genuinely unwell or injured, it shall not move much. Therefore most complaints are catered to and minimal chances of failure are there.

R: So madam, apart from these mobile clinics, do you also have a fixed treatment centre for major injuries/illness treatment?

GS: We have our central setup in Panjrapole, Ahmedabad with the space given free of cost. We are also given some amount of money to bear medicinal expenses. There we have our OPD centre with a full time doctor where surgeries and major treatments are carried out. The OPD centre is fully equipped and includes X-ray, anesthesia et al. The animals undergoing such treatments are kept under thorough observation for a required period of time until they have completely recovered. Once it is well, we release the animal at the same place where it was found.

R: Indeed a systematic arrangement. Madam, what inspired your towards Jivdaya?

GS: I derive my inspiration from the daily life. I have always been an animal lover since childhood. I have pets taken well care of and have seen strays being deprived of a healthy living. There’s very less provision for getting animals treated, lesser resources. The doctors are seldom available. Those who are do not practice properly. This problem needed attention. Therefore Jivdaya.

R: Madam, of late, the occurrences of stray animals dying on the roads in this city have increased either due to disease spread, cold or starvation and their bodies are left unattended. How can we overcome this?

GS: Yes there have been increased incidences of such cases. We mostly treat the smaller animals, not the larger ones, for, the equipments we have cater to only small strays. Larger animals are usually ‘owned’. 95% of the cases are stray dogs. Dog population has risen rapidly in the city. Municipal authorities haven’t started their sterilization programs yet. Also, huge number of accidents led to deaths of dogs on the road and the bodies are left unattended. We also started extensive surgery programs for dogs especially where we insert rods; perform plating, etc. so that amputation is not required.

R: Madam, how is the hygiene maintained?

GS: We are as strict with hygiene as we can be with the existing resources. Everything is sterilized, biomedical waste is taken care of, masks are provided, and instruments are maintained and clean regularly. You wouldn’t believe, with the 30-40 birds that undergo simultaneous surgery during Uttarayan, there is not single operation equipment set which hasn’t been sterilized. 3-4 Autoclaves are constantly under operation. So as soon as one set is used on an operation table, the volunteers replace it with a clean and sterile set immediately.

R: Please tell us about your save-the-bird campaign during Uttarayan. Why is it required?

GS: First of all, Uttarayan is actually a one-day festival. In Gujarat, it lasts for at least half the month of January more or less. To add to that, kids use glass coated ‘manja‘ (thread) and ‘chinese dori‘ resulting in deep cuts; especially for the flying birds (the kids themselves also get injured). Also, major kite flying happens in the morning. That is when the birds fly out in search of food. If only kite flying happened more towards the late mornings/noon, we could reduce the ratio of bird injuries. For five peak days of Uttarayan (Makar Sakranti) & kite flying, Jivdaya and various other organizations launch help lines and call for volunteers. These volunteers are civilians who are trained to ‘rescue’ birds/animal injuries. We have segregated area wise help lines. As soon as we receive a call, we forward it to the nearest organization/volunteer group associated with us. This way, quick help reaches the animals. Usually the volunteers under these centers are kids who carry baskets, towels, soaps and first aid with him/her. The volunteer proceeds with the first aid and then brings the injured animal to our centre.

Also, during Uttarayan this year we’d invited more than 50 doctors from all over India and abroad. At least 30 birds underwent surgery simultaneously at our clinics. Even then, in comparison to last year’s statistics, lesser incidences occurred this year, probably due to the ban on ‘Chinese dori‘. However, the entire month’s ratio hasn’t changed much. Till yesterday, we had 1500 cases. At this rate, the entire month calls for at least 1800-1900 cases. Last year we at once used to treat 500-600 bird injuries. This year 400-300 and lesser cases have been reported.

One more point that requires attention: As soon as Uttarayan is over… after 17-18th kite flying is usually over, there are glass coated threads hanging over branches of trees and live electric cables. This is the second major factor contributing to bird injuries. So not only during Uttarayan, but also post-festive medical care has to be provided. The city authorities/corporations can help by burning all the threads hanging around this way.

R: What are the problems you face in providing clinical arrangements and administrative facilities in Jivdaya?

GS: The biggest issue of course is funding. Clinical arrangements especially for animals consume a lot of money. Moreover, Forest Department does not provide us a penny worth of grants, albeit the permission to treat animals. That’s it. Around 8-9 lakh rupees is spent in Save-the-bird campaign alone which lasts half of January. Staying arrangements for visiting doctors, medical equipments and branded medicines take up the major volume of existing funds and these things cannot be taken with a ‘chalega’ attitude.

R: Did you not have any tie ups with the government?

GS: Well, the Forest Dept. is itself not helpful. Massive scale animal disasters are happening during Uttarayan and still enough attention is not being given to the issue.

R: What are your expansion plans for Jivdaya?

GS: Right now we are only focusing our operations on Ahmedabad and the surrounding areas like Porbandar. But before Uttarayan, we hold training camps teaching people first aid techniques for animals where volunteers from the entire state, doctors from the city, state and abroad participate.

R: Wonderful. How can we volunteer?

GS: Visit the Jivdaya office, fill a form and get started. Volunteers are always welcome, through the year.

R: Madam, this is a wonderful initiative by you. The interview ends here. Thank you so much for your time.

GS: Thank you. You can visit our offices and centers any time or check our website at

Image courtesy.