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Circus plays trapeze with law

Tuesday, 8 November 2005 - 10:27pm IST

Refusing to learn lessons from the April tragedy involving Russian circus, two circus companies have camped in the city flouting all rules.

It can be best described as the Great Mumbai Tamasha. Refusing to learn lessons from the April tragedy involving Russian circus, two circus companies have camped in the city flouting all rules.

And, none of the government agencies involved in allowing them to run the shows are willing to take responsibility. Peta’s (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) call to every government agency to look into the conditions at Great Royal Circus, currently camped in Jogeshwari (east) next to the railway station, have fallen on deaf ears, with every official passing the buck on the other for inaction.  The Peta report on Royal Circus talks of the tents being made of inflammable material. There is no non-stop supply of water or fire extinguishers of the correct nature. Also, there are no proper pipes to carry water, reads the report. Moreover, there’s no infrastructure for fire-fighting operations in case of an emergency.

Chief functionary of Peta Anuradha Sawhney said, “The circus authorities should take minimum precautions to protect the lives of defenceless animals. The situation is such that another tragedy is just waiting to happen.” Peta has sent a letter to the fire, police and civic authorities.

But no one seems to be listening. Chief fire officer AD Jhandwal said, “We gave a no objection certificate for the fire safety. I’m not aware of the ground situation there. We are merely a recommending authority. But it is the duty of BMC to set things right. If they (civic officials) inform us, we will definitely go on an inspection.”

Additional municipal commissioner Shrikant Singh, however, said, “Giving a licence to a circus is not in our jurisdiction. You must question officials at the collector’s office.”

When all efforts to get in touch with any official at the collector’s office failed, DNA contacted local ward officer of K-east ward Vasant Prabhu. “We give NoCs to a circus only for the use of land, nothing else,” he said.

So, where does this passing-the-buck stop? “We will visit the circus site tomorrow for a preliminary inspection,” said Prabhu.

Irregularities in circus shows have become a common sight because of such government apathy. And this has forced animal rights activists to assume the role of vigilant squads.

Last week, Plant and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Thane went on an inspection of the Raj Kamal Circus in Kalyan and found a horse’s leg badly wounded.

“We got the animal treated on the spot. A 22-year-old hippo was kept in a transit tank, which we have objected to. We will visit circuses regularly to see to it that animals are treated properly,” said Nilesh Bhanage, a member of PAWS.

Common Cause

On April 6, 2004, a short-circuit triggered a massive fire, which charred 21 animals of the Russian State Company Circus to death. Peta had then filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Bombay High Court on the issue to get custody of the three dogs left. “We got the animals. But the response from all government agencies was bad, which is why we withdrew the case. We want to create norms in India for circus performance, for which we have asked police commissioner AN Roy, municipal commissioner Johny Joseph, chief fire officer AD Jhandwal, and Maneka Gandhi for their views. If their response is negative, we have a strong case to move the court again,” said Sawhney

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