Techie gives up job, turns activist

One incident when she was in the sixth standard changed her destiny. Mass culling of dogs in her hometown of Ongole in Andhra Pradesh  turned her into a crusader. Pravallika left her lucrative job as a Java developer and has become an animal rights activist in Hyderabad.

After a five-year stint with the Blue Cross, which has the active support of Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and actor Amala Akkineni, 29-year Pravallika now takes care of injured animals, shelters them and fights with the system that has scant respect for animal welfare.

Pravallika narrated her struggle as an activist sitting on the terrace of her animal shelter-cum-home near Hi-tech city in Madapur. As she was talking,  dogs recently rescued from Sahara township of LB Nagar were freely moving around her.

"One of our women activists called me from the gated community where we have been working with stray dogs.  She told me that dogs were chased and beaten to death by men hired by  the welfare association. I rushed there and later went to the jurisdictional police station to lodge a complaint. The circle inspector in the station behaved in a rude manner and refused to file an FIR. Then I called Manekaji who spoke with the police officer," Pravallika said recalling the incident. Then, the police sent two vans for protection of two women activists who were fighting with a bunch of hired men armed with lathis.

Explaining the reason why the year-long work of the animal activists with the gated community has failed leading to the brutal attack on the animals, Pravallika said that only two women came forward to help dogs in that community. "When we feed and take up birth control surgeries on the strays we are actually putting an end to the spread of these strays as they stay inside the gated community and can't escape. No outside dog can gain entry. In a way there will be no dog left inside the community after a few years," she said.

She says that many resident welfare association members ask activists why they feed the strays. "In fact, by feeding them we gain their (dogs) confidence. When we need to catch a bitch for surgery, she believes us and there are fewer traumas. Post operative care will be easy and they can be easily dropped back into the community," she said. She brought one of the injured strays to the shelter as  the dog was profusely bleeding.

"It's a female and has cancer. She was so cruelly treated by residents at that colony that she shudders when she sees a human being. I will take care of her now," a determined Pravallika said, while monitoring a rescue operation of a dog chained in the open by its owners through her WhatsApp group "Compassionate people".

The journey of the stubborn activist started from Ongole town in Prakasam district. While her father, an engineer, was working in Dubai, her mother, a nurse, took care of the house. Pravallika has a younger sister and brother and they are also now activists.  As there was no veterinary hospital in Ongole at that time, her mother  would treat injured animals.

"When I was in  the sixth standard, one day I did not find stray dogs on the streets while returning home from school. Next morning, I went on a bicycle to the municipal office and was horrified to find them electrocuted in a shed. There itself I decided that I will be the voice for the voiceless and fight for the animals," she said with tears in her eyes.  While studying engineering in Hyderabad in 2005 she became a vegan coming under the influence of famous sweet maker and founder of her college G Pulla Reddy. "How can I love some animals and eat some," she said.

After years of search for a role model, she found Maneka Gandhi, founder of Sanjay Gandhi Animal Foundation, and then Amala Akkineni of Blue Cross. While working in Hyderabad as a techie, she enrolled in People for Ethical Treatment of Animals as a volunteer and started filing petitions. She also read a lot of articles on veganism. She then joined Blue Cross as an education officer and worked in several positions. However, she felt that she needs to work full time.  

The Humane Society International (India) paid her salary as Blue Cross couldn't afford to employ her. That was the time she was taken to Amala for a personal interview where the actor-turned-activist advised Pravallika not to quit her job. Amala put her on a job of educating children in old city on animal welfare. "I have educated 15,000 Muslim children and my work was appreciated," she said.

Explaining reasons for failure of animal rights groups in bringing change in the mindset of people, she said that one single organisation can never bring the change. "Without Amala, all the dogs would have been dead in Hyderabad. With the help of Maneka Gandhi she fought against illegal dog killing, rescued sick and injured animals," Pravallika said.

She argued that people started dumping all the injured animals at the Blue Cross shelter without taking care of them.   "Amala is not god. She wanted that the community should take over the movement eventually, just one organisation cannot adopt all stray animals," she pointed out.

She quit Blue Cross in 2016 and started exploring other options. She took two months time but never stopped rescuing animals. She adopted a community to set an example. That is how she started working in Sahara gated community.

The crusader feels that the archaic 1960 Prevention of Cruelty Act requires more teeth.   "We are all fighting for enhancement of punishment from a fine of Rs 50 for torturing animals. She wonders how the same politicians support inhuman Jallikattu and cockfights in southern states.

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