Reform begins at one of India’s oldest humane societies

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:

KAKINADA–The 102-year-old Kakinada SPCA, among the oldest
western-style humane societies in India, has “had its working
committee abolished by district collector and ex-officio president
Gopalakrishna Dwivedi, owing to detection of irregularities in its
functioning,” The Hindu reported on December 3, 2008.
Founded with a gift of 98 acres by the Maharajah of
Pithapuram, the Kakinada SPCA was expected to support itself by
making use of the land, but only two acres remain.
Part of the role of a “district collector” in India is
ensuring that nonprofit organizations fulfill their public trust.
Any humane society calling itself a Society for the Protection of
Animals is now required to include the local district collector as
ex-officio president. The dissolution of the Kakinada SPCA working
committee is among the first reported consequences of the newly
mandated board structure.

District collector Dwivedi acted upon allegations forwarded
by the Animal Welfare Board of India. “The charges framed against
SPCA secretary S.S.R. Guru Prasad, treasurer K.G. Lunani, and other
members of the core committee included negligence in taking care of
animals, misusing funds, and using almost half” of the present
Kakinada SPCA campus “for purposes other than animal welfare,” The
Hindu elaborated. “Guru Prasad had his own house constructed in a
corner of the premises where animals were supposed to be sheltered,
and embarked on building a commercial complex” on the site, The
Hindu said.
In addition, The Hindu reported, “a python and a peacock
were illegally kept in cages on the SPCA premises and were
subsequently left out in the jungle days before the inquiry was
instituted, instead of handing them over to wildlife officials.
Criminal cases were booked against the accused persons.”
Confirmed Blue Cross of India chief executive Chinny Krishna,
“Sadly, the report seems to be correct. Guru Prasad is a former
member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, and he and his son
have been accused of misusing the funds of the SPCA. The person who
has really been responsible for bringing all this to light is Lisa
Wrote Warden to the Animal Welfare Board on October 30,
2008, “I arrived in Kakinada on October 2, 2008 to join my husband,
who is in India on a three-year contract. As an animal lover, I was
happy to see the SPCA sign on the main road. I looked forward to
visiting the place and was hoping to register to help as a volunteer.”
During the next month Warden documented severe neglect of
animals on the premises, numerous animal deaths, a federally funded
Animal Birth Control program that was not actually sterilizing dogs,
and a water fountain for animals touted in Kakinada SPCA brochures
that has no water in it.
Warden and her husband fed the animals and tried to encourage
improvements in the operation. But push came to shove after Guru
Prasad balked for three days before finally euthanizing a cow who was
in severe pain from a broken ankle.
Detailing her findings about the Kakinada SPCA to the Animal
Welfare Board on October 28, 2008, Warden noted that “The plaque
commemorating the construction of the commercial center” built on
about half of the remaining SPCA property “bears the names of the
president of the SPCA, who is Kakinada’s district collector, and
the SPCA vice-president, who is the Revenue department divisional
That brought swift attention to Warden’s complaints.
“Unfortunately,” Warden told ANIMAL PEOPLE on December 3, ”
the drama is far from resolved and many animals continue to suffer at
the Kakinada SPCA, even though the Collector has finally kicked out
the bad guys. Guru Prasand and Gopal Surabathula, the father/son duo
who were running the place, are very well connected. They are doing
everything in their power to sabotage the attempt to clean up the
SPCA by, for example, having the police confiscate hundreds of
cattle and dump them on the site. In the past week,” Warden said,
“376 confiscated cattle and buffalo have been dumped at the the site
by the police. Five of them have died and more are almost dead from
starvation, as the goondas left the coffers dry, and there were no
resources with which to care for them. The Kakinada SPCA has never
received animals in these numbers,” Warden charged. “It is clearly
an orchestrated attempt to make the clean-up efforts turn into a
But People for Animals founder and former federal minister
for animal welfare Maneka Gandhi was skeptical of the claimed plot. ”
350 animals coming into the shelter at one time is certainly not
new,” Mrs. Gandhi told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Kakinada is on the main
smuggling area to Kerala and to Al Kabeer near Hyderabad. The police
catch trucks regularly and send the animals to the SPCA. The only
difference is that Guruprasad used to sell the animals immediately to
Current Revenue department divisional officer G.C. Kishore
Kumar and Agriculture & Animal Husbandry Department staff formed a
committee to build a proper shelter for the animals on the premises,
mostly cattle. “Meanwhile,” The Hindu reported, “the ground is
being prepared to initiate criminal proceedings against all those
responsible for the pitiable plight of the cattle, most of whom were
being smuggled to abattoirs.”
“Local people have been submitting complaints about the
Kakinada SPCA to the authorities for quite a few years,” Warden told
ANIMAL PEOPLE. Unfortunately, the authorities, for whatever reason,
chose to do nothing.”
Among the complainants was Visakha SPCA founder Pradeep Kumar
Nath, who received 11 dogs and a kitten from the Kakinada SPCA via
Warden while her letter was en route to the Animal Welfare Board,
and is now “trying to coordinate with the Animal Welfare Board” to
reconstitute the Kakinada SPCA, Nath said.
“Ironically, the VSPCA owes its present status to
information from Guru Prasad that an animal welfare conference would
be held at Delhi in January 1997,” Nath recalled. “It does sadden
me greatly that Guru Prasad joined with his son Gopal in indulging
alleged criminal activities in the name of animals. It is very
disheartening to read the many types of ways that they were making
money in the name of animals.”
Nath developed suspicion about the integrity of the Kakinada
SPCA after observing that a “structure of just a roof, sponsored by
the Royal SPCA” appeared to cost much less than the value of the
grant that paid for it.”
Nath also heard rumors that the Kakinada SPCA was selling
“rescued” cattle to slaughter, and that burglaries of the premises
were inside jobs. But Nath was particularly perturbed when he
learned that Guru Prasad had won a nationally recognized humane award
for achievements purportedly including founding the Visakha SPCA.
“I believe that the situation was my fault for not having had
my antenna up,” said Mrs. Gandhi. “Guru Prasad’s Gopal Surabathula
went around as the People for Animals head there. Just one day
before Lisa Warden sent me her letter and photos, he wrote to me
saying that he had signed a memorandum of understanding with the
local administration to do the Animal Birth Control program, and
that I should ask them to release the money to him immediately–which
I would have done if Lisa had not happened along.
“The odd part,” Mrs. Gandhi added, “is that now that I look
at Guru Prasad’s accounts, they were always rubbish. To a trained
eye like mine, they should have stood out. But I simply did not see
them for so many years, nor did anyone else. He didn’t get caught
fudging accounts. He got caught by the physical and photographic
evidence provided by Lisa and the snake and peacock–for which I had
him raided by the wildlife department.”
Speaking at the Kakinada SPCA centenary celebration in
January 2005, member of Parliament Mutha Gopalakrishna announced
that the city would soon have a six-acre “street dog park.” Perhaps
he meant that street dogs would roam the business park now occupying
much of the Maharajah of Pithapuram’s legacy.

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