GUWAHATI: Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi on Thursday petitioned the Central government urging it to prevent the Assam government from transporting four elephants to Ahmedabad for the Jagannath Rath Yatra.
“I am concerned over media reports that the Assam government is transporting four elephants for Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad. Transport of animals is always risk-prone. Many wildlife activists have opposed the decision of the state government,” he wrote in a letter to Union Forest and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
Pointing out that the country is faced with severe heat, the Assam MP said, “These are extreme conditions for the elephants to travel. In such a case, the elephants may suffer from acute skin infection and dehydration”.
He asked if government rules allow for the transportation of wild animals for religious events.
The move of Assam’s BJP-led coalition government has already ruffled the feathers of wildlife activists.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said the decision was an apparent violation of a 2016 order of the Supreme Court which had directed that the persons who are in possession of elephants shall not transfer the elephants outside the state nor shall they part with the elephants by way of transfer in any manner.
“Experts have already warned of the dangers of transporting these elephants such a huge distance, forcing them to work in heat, and of the risk of these elephants ending up in the illegal wildlife trade. Because captive elephants are kidnapped from their families, trained and controlled through beatings and kept almost constantly chained, PETA India has long recommended the use of mechanical elephants or other novel and humane approaches instead of real elephants in processions and events,” PETA India CEO and veterinarian, Dr. Manilal Valliyate, said.
The four jumbos to be transported by a train belong to private parties. They will be transported some 3,100 km from Upper Assam’s Tinsukia involving four days’ travel. Usually, elephants are leased out for six months for such purposes but there is not a single instance of them being brought back after the expiry of lease period.
According to Assam’s forest department, some attendants will be engaged to periodically spray water on the elephants during their transportation while some vets will look after them. However, elephant experts are livid at this “inhuman” plan.
“We understand that the transportation of the elephants has been allowed within the purview of law but is it right to transport them in such heat?” asked Kaushik Barua, who is an elephant expert.