By Seema Sharma
Dehradun: The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to check the illegal movement of animals across the border to Nepal.
Hearing a plea by city-based Gauri Maulekhi, who is also member-secretary, People For Animals (PFA), a bench headed by Justice Jagdish Singh Kehar observed that the animal trafficking was in violation of the Export-Import Policy of India and the Foreign Trade Act.
Through her petition, Maulekhi wanted to draw the apex court's attention to the upcoming Gadhimai festival, which is held every 5 years in Nepal and involves the barbaric ritual of sacrificing more than 5 lakh animals, including water buffaloes, sheep, pigs, rats, pigeons and chicken over a two-day period.
In her petition, Maulekhi said that Uttarakhand shares a porous border with Nepal through which animals are being illegally trafficked on an alarming scale—to be sacrificed at the Gadhimai festival, which will be held on November 28-29.
"The judge questioned the counsel appearing for the central government on measures taken to prevent such brutal treatment being meted out to India's animals, referring to the fact that 70% of the animals which are sacrificed at the festival come from India," Maulekhi told TOI.
On October 14, the court had also issued notices to the Centre and four states, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, which share borders with Nepal and from where majority of the animals are being transported illegally. The matter will be heard next on November 3.
When TOI spoke with state government authorities on the alarming scale of animal trafficking in the state, departments appeared to be at loggerheads on the issue.
Kamal Mehrotra, director, state animal husbandry department, said, "The responsibility to curb the menace of animal smuggling lies with the police. They need to nab the culprits. However, as the Supreme Court has taken serious note of the issue, I will make sure that the animal husbandry department works in close coordination with the police on this matter and we prevent smuggling of animals to Nepal."
DVS Khati, chief wildlife warden, said, "The issue has nothing to do with wildlife department. However, it can certainly be discussed in our meetings with police and other intelligence agencies such as wildlife crime control bureau. A red alert can be issued on this matter."
Vinod Rishi, expert on animal conservation, said, "The rituals related to animal sacrifice are getting obsolete and must not be permitted anymore. As far as the smuggling of animals is concerned, it is happening due to non-implementation of the regulations laid down in this regard. The departments need to pull up their socks and pay heed to the strong reaction of the Supreme Court."
Petitioner's advocate Anand Grover said, "India's Export-Import Policy, under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992, which categorically places live cattle and buffaloes in the restricted category of exports, requiring a licence to legally export them. This has been totally flouted as most of the animals are transported illegally through the porous border, without any export licence."