The politics behind the elephant transfer drama
GUWAHATI: Though the Assam government has temporarily reversed the idea of sending the elephants to Gujarat, the government is still keen to go ahead with the decision. A source in the forest & environment department, talking to G Plus, informed that the elephants will surely be sent eventually but for the time being the matter is being kept in abeyance as the Veterinary Experts Committee, in a report submitted on Wednesday, said that there is “every possibility of the elephants suffering from heat stroke” if transported - by any means of transport for that matter.
But why is the government so eager to send the elephants to Gujarat?
State forest & environment minister, Parimal Suklabaidya, talking to G Plus said, “We received a request from Gujarat Jagannath Temple management to send the elephants and even received a no objection certificate (NOC) from the forest department of that state.”
But if any temple management requests the government to send elephants or any wildlife species for that matter, should the government agree?
A highly placed source in Dispur talking to G Plus said, “There is some political pressure. Prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a prominent national leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had taken a vow in the Jagannath Temple that if BJP wins the 2019 elections, 4 elephants will be given for the Jagannath Rath Yatra.”
The source revealed that accordingly the government was asked to send the elephants but now, because of climatic issues, the decision is being kept in abeyance.
The government has not yet permanently withdrawn the decision. “It is difficult to send the elephants before 4th July (when the Rath Yatra starts), but in future, when the weather conditions improve, the elephants will be sent,” said Suklabaidya.
The source in Dispur said that the decision is halted only because the expert committee report suggested that the elephants won’t be safe if sent now.
The team of experts comprising five veterinary doctors, Dr Pulin Chandra Das, Dr KK Sarma, Dr Bijoy Kumar Gogoi, Dr Pranjit Barua and Dr Debabrata Phukon, had said in their report that evolutionarily, elephants as compared to humans or most of the mammals, have a very weak thermoregulatory system owing to presence of minimal sweat glands (only present above their toe-nails) and presence of intra-abdominal testicles which is otherwise external in case of most mammals.
Regarding other modalities of transport, the committee stated that regulations laid down by the Directorate of Project Elephant dated January 8, 2008 and Central Zoo Authority published in 2012 should be maintained in letter and spirit.
The Central Zoo Authority had said that only adults and sub-adults should be transported as far as the selection of animals is concerned. Pregnant, geriatric, lactating, suckling, sick, weak, injured or deformed animals should be avoided in planned transport. Surprisingly, according to media reports, the male juvenile elephant, Rupsing, has a bullet injury on its left foreleg and yet the elephant was issued a fitness certificate by a veterinarian and it was ready for transportation.
The four elephants which the Assam government was planning to send to Gujarat are Rani, Rupsingh, Babulal and Joytara.