By Prabhati Nayak Mishra
The Kerala temple festival is made attractive by the marvellous arrangement of colours, people, and decorated elephants, but the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) report shows another side to the festival. According to the report, elephants who had suffered injuries were paraded and forced to stand for hours in hot and humid climate without any protection by the organisers of the festival in Kerala, recently.
This goes against the Supreme Court's directions. The top court had ordered that during the festival no cruelty must be meted out to pachyderms. The court had told the organisers, owners of elephants and the festival coordination committee to ensure that no elephant was engaged in performance of festival activities or treated badly.
dna has access to three separate reports of elephants with abscesses, wounds, foot ailments, cataract, impaired vision and dermatitis being used for the festivities.
The reports were prepared by the AWBI after it carried out spot inspections in Mudappallur, Kannambra and Anjumoorthy of Palakkad district in May this year.
"If it is established before this court that cruelty has been meted out to an elephant, the organisers, the committee members and any one involved with it shall be impleaded in the case and be prosecuted for contempt," a supreme court bench had said while hearing a PIL filed by an NGO Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center highlighting cruelty meted out to these animals.
The AWBI has alleged that the organisers of the vela (festival) did not even have the mandatory permission required from the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) and also Guidelines for Care and Management of Captive Elephants, issued by the environment and forest ministry.
According to reports, filed before the apex court, the district animal husbandry office has given in writing to AWBI that no fitness certificates were issued by it for the elephants who were forced to participate in the festivals.
"Despite ban on ankush (sharp metal hooked weapons with spear tip point) by the wildlife department, majority of mahouts were found to be carrying it. They were also seen with iron rods to induce fear and restrict the elephants' movements.
"All the elephants were spotted tethered with short chains and all four legs were chained in such a way so that they couldn't even take a single step forward or backward….," as stated in the report adding that no minimum standards of health assessment to evaluate the existing physical and mental problems of the elephants was done by the forest department.