Seven elephants from Kerala were saved from a tiring Diwali after the state forest department denied permission for transporting the pachyderms all the way to Maharashtra for a three-day festival.
Held from November 9 to 11 at Dombivli, Mumbai Pooram’s main attraction, as displayed on the website by the organisers, was to be a parade of seven gold-caparisoned elephants amid a lavish display of fireworks.
State forest department sources said the organisers had not sought permission for the procession from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). A statutory body under the ministry of environment and forests, AWBI has been formed to monitor animal welfare rights in India.
“The organisers never approached us for the requisite permissions. Parading elephants transported from up to 1,500km amid noisy fireworks would clearly have been a violation of the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Animal Transport Rules,” said Chinny Krishna, vice-chairman, AWBI.
SH Naqvi, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said, “In inter-state events such as these permissions from state ministries, in this case Kerala and Maharashtra, are required. The organisers were not granted permission to enter the state border as they had not sought the necessary clearances from the Centre.”
Besides instructions from AWBI to not grant permission to the organisers, the state forest department had received up to eight petitions from animal rights activists condemning the transport of these elephants from Kerala to Maharashtra.
The organisers, however, said that the state forest department had given permission for transporting five elephants to Mumbai last year, but it denied permission this year.
“We were able to transport elephants last year without AWBI’s permission. This year, we were informed that inter-state transport of elephants won’t be allowed. This is unfair; we are animal lovers too. We take the requisite care, we make sure that the elephants don’t travel more than 200km at a stretch. They are fed properly and there is a veterinary doctor on call at all times during the travel,” said Bhupesh Babu, a Vashi-based builder and one of the organisers.