The Constitution of India vide Article 51A (g) enshrines and casts upon every citizen of India the duty to have compassion for all living creatures, as a Fundamental Duty. The mute cannot complain and hence the responsibility to ensure compassionate handling of animals is greater. With this in mind, the Animal Welfare Board of India created a comprehensive draft of the Animal Welfare Act, 2011. The draft was posted on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in February 2011 and suggestions and objections were welcomed. Animal lovers and activists are hopeful that 2012 will see the act come into effect.
Arpan Sharma, convener, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO), said, “We have been pushing for it to be passed for some years now. We are hopeful that it will be tabled in the Parliament in early 2012.” Some of the salient features of the draft enactment are Augmenting animal welfare and well-being; strengthening animal welfare organizations and conscientious citizens who wish to espouse the cause of animal welfare and well-being; enhancing penalties for animal abuse; altering and enlarging the definition of animal abuse, in keeping with the times and in keeping with judicial pronouncements.
“After handing in the final cut of the draft to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in July 2011, a sudden, watered down version was circulated by someone from the ministry. The AWBI’s legal committee, (which has four lawyers), protested. We will try and ensure that the AWBI-drafted law will be enacted in 2012,” explained Anjali Sharma, legal adviser and executive committee member, AWBI.
City-based Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) was one of the organizations that sent in suggestions for the draft. “These suggestions pertained to torture, animal slaughter, animal rights and much more. We sat day and night for a month to send in these suggestions and we will be happy to see at least 20 per cent of those being incorporated. We hope that 2012 will see the Act coming into force,” said Khurshid Bhathena, honorary secretary, BWC, Pune.
Awareness among people is the key to the passing of stringent laws for the welfare of animals, feels Supriya Bose, animal welfare officer, Committee to Monitor Animal Welfare Laws in Maharashtra (appointed by the Bombay High Court) and also working with the Shri Ramanaghruha Trust, Pune. “People should be sensitised to the issue and should raise their voice against blatant cruelty to animals. Then, there will be pressure for the Act to be implemented,” she said.