National Animal Welfare University of India to debut in September
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
Faridabad, India–If Indian minister of state for animal
welfare Maneka Gandhi could soar with the birds above her home in
Delhi, she could see her dream of a lifetime rising in nearby
Faridabad–“Almost a suburb now,” Mrs. Gandhi told ANIMAL PEOPLE,
“but technically in Haryana state,” while Delhi is in Uttar Pradesh.
It is the eight-acre campus of the newly founded National
Institute of Animal Welfare. “It is 40% built and will be ready by
August or so,” ready to accept up to 200 students in residence,
Mrs. Gandhi promised. The 200 enrollees will be the first class to
pursue a four-year B.A. degree in animal welfare.
“We are also going to have concurrent diploma courses of one
or two years’ duration for veterinarians, zoo technicians and others
who need specific job-oriented training,” Mrs. Gandhi said. “The
university also envisions an outreach education program, and a
continuing education program for professionals. There will
subsequently be post-graduate courses leading to masters and Ph.D.
“The Institute is starting under the Ministry for Animal
Welfare,” Mrs. Gandhi explained, “but as soon as we get going we
will try to make it autonomous. As soon as this happens, we will
get university status. I wanted to give up my political career and
become the dean,” she laughed, “but as I do not have even a B.A.,
I cannot be anything!”
Mrs. Gandhi did attend university, but left her studies to
marry Sanjay Gandhi, son of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi.
She planned to go back to get her degree later. Widowed at age 21,
however, and estranged from the Gandhi family, she was instead
obliged to focus on earning a living and raising her now adult son.
The experience increased both her appreciation of education and of
the obstacles that young Indians–especially women–have in getting
the education they need to pursue the careers of their choice.
“I hope the institute will start work by September. I hope I
last until then,” Mrs. Gandhi said, “because if it succeds, India
will produce a million Maneka Gandhis.”
The four-year B.A. program is meant to qualify graduates to
manage the increasingly ambitious projects funded and supervised by
the Animal Welfare Board of India.
There is an obvious need. The Animal Birth Control program
pioneered since 1964 in Chennai by the Blue Cross of India is now
national policy. The national system of gaushala and pinjarapole cow
shelters, informally in existence for about 3,000 years, is at last
being dragged into compliance with uniform animal welfare standards.
The Central Zoo Authority has partnered with the Animal Welfare Board
to close substandard wildlife exhibition sites and confiscate animals
from illegal traveling shows, while trying to improve the quality of
care at established zoos.
The nonprofit animal welfare sector also has a growing need
for qualified help. People for Animals, founded by Mrs. Gandhi in
1984, has expanded to include active chapters with fulltime staff in
almost every major city in India. The Blue Cross of India, Bombay
SPCA, Help In Suffering, and even some relatively new groups like
the Compass-ionate Crusaders Trust of Calcutta now run networks of
animal hospitals, shelters, and sanctuaries that often handle more
species in a day than most U.S. shelters see in a year.
Yet before the formation of the National Institute of Animal
Welfare, no institution in India taught animal welfare
administration, cruelty investigation, zoo management, or wildlife
medicine. Oriented toward agriculture and public health, just a
handful of Indian veterinary schools teach the surgical techniques
used to sterilize dogs and cats. Few teach equine care. Veterinary
technicians–the few there are–are mostly informally trained on the
job, without certification.
Mrs. Gandhi intends to fill the voids in a hurry. “The
moment the National Institute of Animal Welfare gets going,” she
explains, “I will make it manadatory for zoos, shelters,
laboratories, and so forth to only hire animal care people with
This will increase the NIAW enrollment, but Mrs. Gandhi has
no intention of establishing a monopoly. Instead, she wants the
NIAW to pioneer programs that will be offered at other institutions
“The University Grants Commis-sion, which rules all the
universities, says that if we can flesh out proper courses, they
will put them into all the universities in the country,” Mrs. Gandhi
said. A precedent is that, “All the 112 Indian law universities now
teach animal welfare law as an independent subject.”
Because the need is big, NIAW is starting big. “We have
funding from the government to hire 11 teachers. The department of
animal welfare at Nottingham Trent University in England, which also
gives a B.A., has three teachers,” Mrs. Gandhi noted.
The few undergraduate animal welfare programs in the U.S.
have no fulltime faculty. The leading U.S. post-graduate animal
welfare program, at the Tufts University Center for Animals and
Public Policy, has just one fulltime faculty member.
However, the U.S. programs are all within universities that
offer a variety of applicable courses under other departments.
As the NIAW will be a self-contained campus, it will offer
relatively little opportunity for students to include courses from
elsewhere within their training, at least while in residence.
Transfer students may apply credit from relevant courses taken
elsewhere toward their degree–but most of the NIAW courses have
never before been offered in India, and some have apparently never
been taught anywhere.
“We have the course skeletons worked out,” Mrs. Gandhi said.
“I do not know who will teach them, as there is not a single
qualified person in India for most of them. Many blocks of related
courses could be taught by one person. I need qualified people to
come for a year to India. We will pay them at Indian rates and house
them. We are looking for 10 people including a top-class vet.
“Since the payment may not be acceptable,” Mrs. Gandhi
added, “I am looking for a foundation to give grants to bring some
teachers out. This does not have to be an animal welfare foundation.
It could be an educational foundation or poverty relief foundation.
I am willing to make a proposal which will show how essential this
is,” to create jobs for intelligent young people from the rural
districts where poverty is most persistent.
In her former role as minister of state for social welfare
and empowerment, Mrs. Gandhi emphasized the relationship between
animal well-being and the economic health of rural communities.
Examples include cattle and work animals losing productivity through
poor care; rat plagues following purges of street dogs meant to
prevent rabies; and crop losses resulting from incursions by
monkeys, deer, and antelope, after purges of predators.
As well as needing faculty, NIAW needs books.
“We have no books or syllabuses containing the subject matter
that should be taught for each course,” Mrs. Gandhi told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, requesting help in obtaining donations of current materials
suitable for university-level teaching.
“We need books for the library,” she continued. “I would
like to have 1,000 books on each subject connected even slightly to
animal welfare. This would include veterinary medicine of any kind;
animal welfare philosophy; architecture for animal housing at any
kind of facility, even slaughterhouses [which NIAW graduates might
be hired to inspect and regulate]; alternatives to animal testing;
organic farming; specialized books on animals, fish, and birds;
books on alternative animal healing; and books on international
animal law and public policy.”
And NIAW needs computers, Mrs. Gandhi concluded–which for
reasons of logistics and compatibility should be purchased in India.
[Contact the National Institute of Animal Welfare c/o People
for Animals, 14 Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110001, India;
91-11-335-5883; fax 91-11-335-4321; e-mail