PUDUCHERRY: Controversy has erupted again after elephant Lakshmi of Sri Manakula Vinayagar temple was prevented from being brought to the temple for the past 12 days. The animal has not visited the temple since December 14 after the Department of Forest and Wildlife directed temple authorities not to bring it to the temple until further orders were given.
Sources in the administration said the action was taken in response to a representation made to Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, an animal rights activist and environmentalist, by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She had then forwarded the same to Puducherry Forest and Wildlife Department seeking action. “They have expressed concern over the foot rot and mental health of the elephant. We are monitoring its health,” said Deputy Conservator of Forest G Sathiyamurthy.
The 28-year-old pachyderm has been with the temple for the past 22 years. She was donated to the temple when she was six years old. She had been part of rituals ever since. In the evenings, she stood near the entrance, blessing devotees with her trunk. On auspicious days like Vinayaga Charthurthi and Bramorshavam, she would be brought in the mornings. On other days, Lakshmi visited the temple in the evenings.
However, the action of the administration has drawn flak from the temple protection committee Thirukoilgal Paadhukappu Committee which sought the intervention of the Chief Minister.
K Dhakshinamurthy, Secretary of the committee said that Lakshmi was housed in a specially-built shed at Eswaran Koil temple and had a pond. “If there are any shortcomings, it should be corrected, but the government should not stop the elephant from visiting the temple,” opined Dhakshinamurthy.
For the past three years, PETA has been making representations citing the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)’s authorised inspection report on foot rot and mental health. The AWBI had recommended that the elephant be rehabilitated to a forested sanctuary owing to concerns about its health and also raised issues of ‘illegal ownership. The AWBI report stated that Lakshmi displayed behaviour arising out of mental stress and that she suffered from ‘foot rot on all legs.’ Lakshmi needs immediate veterinary care and enrichment of environment by an association with other elephants. PETA had represented to Lt Governor Kiran Bedi last year too. However, Lakshmi returned after a stay in a rejuvenation camp.