Friday, 30 March 2012

WWF agreed to assist J&K on man-animal conflict: JK govtt

Jammu, Mar 29 (PTI) World Wide Fund Nature (WWF) has agreed to assist Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department for dealing with victims of man-animal conflict victims, the state government said today. Replying to a calling attention notice of Abdul Majeed Wani in the assembly here, Minister for Forest and Environment Mian Altaf Ahmed said World Wide Fund-Nature plans to hold workshop on conflict issues to understand the problem including areas in which wild animals killed the live stock of locals in large number. 

The proposal on payment of ex-gratia and compensation for loss of life livestock to the victims of man-animal conflict was discussed at the 4th standing committee meeting of State Board of wildlife and it has been decided that the wildlife department will approach wildlife Trust of India and World Wide Fund-Nature with regard to the procedure of settling the claims on account of loss of live stock as well as funding of such schemes, he said. He said for compensation of livestock to be carried out on pilot scale in two districts of the state, he said the department has been in consultation with Wildlife Trust of India & World Wide Fund Nature in order to decide modalities. 

He said 2 incidents of leopard attack have taken place at village Hamirpora and Kakroosa of Shiva area falling in Doda constituency. The Minister said that a team of wild life department is located at Doda with all the necessary accessories to address at a short notice the man-wild animal conflict situation.

Face the music if you shoot animals illegally

Animal Welfare Board Of India is seeking help of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to take action against filmmakers who film beasts without obtaining permission from it

Tired of seeing animals being used, and often misused in films, the Animal Welfare Board Of India (AWBI) has decided to come down hard on errant filmmakers who take liberties with the law, and use animals in their productions without getting the necessary sanctions and paperwork in place. 

Take permission
The board has decided that it will not issue non-objection certificates (NOCs) to filmmakers who take footage of animals for their productions without taking permission from them. Not only that, it has decided to take legal action against them. The board has also lodged a complaint with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry about the errant producers who do not intimate the board before using footage of animals in their films.

As per the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules 2001 under the PCA Act 1960, producers of films in which animals are used should apply to the AWBI and furnish details of animals to be used, with details about their performance sequences, and their ownership certificates.

However, the board grumbled that many violated the law. Chinny Krishna, vice chairman of AWBI, said, "Maharashtra is the only state where producers flout the law so frequently. While some don't bother to take prior permission from the board, there are others who inform the board after the shooting is over. Others furnish wrong information and mistreat the animals. We have registered a complaint with the Information and Broadcast minister Ambika Soni regarding the same, and hopefully we will be able to tighten the law against the violators soon."

Krishna added that the board would take legal action against all those who were violating the law, explaining, "Shooting with animals can only be done after formal approval is obtained from AWBI in the form of an NOC. This can be achieved only after informing the board the date, time and exact location of film shooting, well before it is done. Not only this, applicants must submit the CDs with the signature and seal of the film company on them, while applying for the NOC. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse."

Legal notices served General Kharb, chairman of AWBI, said, "We have served legal notices or sought
explanation from many filmmakers on various grounds. We have been constantly receiving complaints that
many films released have never taken permission from the board before filming the animals."

Handle with care
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has imposed a blanket ban on the use of animals like lions, tigers, panthers and monkeys in films. While shooting with other animals too, filmmakers will have to be careful. No animal can be used for scenes that are shot on hard surfaces (like tarred roads) or near barbed wires or explosives. Animals also cannot be made to travel for more than eight hours at a stretch.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Kashmir dogs to go under knife for castration, hysterectomy soon

Under pressure from civil society and shaken by increasing number of dog bites in Kashmir, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has decided to castrate male dogs and perform ovario-hysterectomy operation on female dogs. "The animal birth control (ABC) programme for management of stray dog population will be started in the first fortnight of April. Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) will be part of it," said Srinagar municipality commissioner Ghulam Nabi Qasba.

While the male dogs will be subjected to castration operation and anti-rabies immunization with post-operative period for 2-3 days, female dogs will be subjected to ovario-hysterectomy operation and anti-rabies immunization with minimum post-operative period of 3 days, said Qasba.

The municipality's urgency has come in the backdrop of Kashmir dog menace hitting global headlines as the population touches 10 lakh in the valley. According to the latest government figures, there are more than 50,000 dogs in Srinagar with population of 14 lakh. The valley has reported more than 25,000 bites in the last year. A boy died in Srinagar earlier this year when dogs bit him over 100 times.

Facing threats from civil society take law into their hand, the municipality is fast working on an operational operation theatre at Shuhama's Teaching Veterinary Clinical Services Complex in Srinagar."It will be utilized for conduct of surgery on stray dogs in the first instance. By mid of June all the surgeries will be conducted in this facility," said Qasba.

An amount of Rs 5.25 lakh has been earmarked for the project. A dog catching vehicle is also being made available to start catching stray dogs in two zones with priority to the 'Red Areas', where dog bite cases have been reported in the past. "The catching of the stray dogs will be done in the wee hours of the morning and late evening in order to avoid public interference," said Qasba.

The authorities plan to put up male and female dogs in kennels for medical examination. "Those fit for undergoing surgery will be kept off-fed for 12 – 24 hours. Those suffering from illness, injuries, mange etc. will be treated prior to their sterilisation," said Qasba.

The authorities will put V-shaped ear notching to identify the sterilized dogs. "These dogs will be released in the same areas after the completion of post-operative period and ensuring proper healing," said Qasba.

Dog pounds:

1800 pounds with a capacity of 50 canines in each pound
2,500 kanals required with expenditure of Rs 98 cr per year on dog caretaking
Pounds will be equipped with separate kennels for males and females species
Impounded dogs will be looked by specialized people called ‘Dog Caretakers’, who will take care of 25 dogs

Past exercises to combat dog menace:

The SMC arranged to train their staff in the art of catching stray dogs from a US team in Feb this year
Khursheed Ahmad Mir (54), an agriculture graduate with an MBA degree, who claimed to be a pied piper with scientific technology was rope in March, 2011 but charged Rs 20 crore. The experiment was shelved.
In a separate initiative, planned to sterilize male ones and marking them with studs to avoid confusion. The SMC then submitted a Rs 4.5-crore project before the Animal Welfare Board, Government of India, for expert advice and funds for scientific sterilization of dogs.

"Conservation without fences: can India coexist with wildlife?"

Our attitude to wildlife conservation is flawed. We endorse a “not-in-my-backyard” conservation perspective, while simultaneously pushing for humans and wildlife to be neighbours without fences, writes Divya Vasudev

Somewhere in the rice fields of the Assamese plains, a scream pierces the night. The scream merges into an inharmonious chorus and flames light up brighter than the moon. Tempers flare, releasing pent-up frustrations and fears. As the dawn breaks, the shouting dies down, the crowd disperses back to their homes. Left behind is a once-tall pachyderm, a father of many calves trotting beside their mothers, guardian of the multiple elephant herds that range the area. Now reduced to his knees, his blood has run dry, and what catch the eye are the words etched onto his side. They shout out the feelings of the villagers towards this once symbol of holiness, our recently declared National Heritage Animal. Burnt on the flanks of the elephant are the words ‘bin Laden’.

Weeks later, I’m sitting in front of my computer, browsing the latest blog related to wildlife when I come across an article in Tehelka (A Time to Cull by Jay Mazoomdaar, 18 February) suggesting the culling of problem animals. With the image of ‘bin Laden’ in my mind, it was hard not to appreciate the merits of the author’s arguments. He bemoaned the loss of goodwill towards raiding wild pigs and deer in many parts of our country, caused by the loss of forests and the lack of success with government compensation programmes recommending preserving the erstwhile benevolent perspective towards wildlife conservation by getting rid of conflict animals. Mazoomdaar discouraged the over-sentimentality displayed by animal rights activists in posing as an obstacle to culling programmes previously initiated by the government. The author is not alone in his opinion. The newspapers, of late, have been strewn with reports, often less balanced in view than Mazoomdaar’s, of “marauding wildlife” and animals “on the rampage”. And while we do not allow the killing of endangered animals except in extreme cases, culling has been used in other countries, including the US and southern Africa, as a strategy to control wildlife population.

In effect, culling is a strategy to consider if our intention is to ‘control’ wildlife population. So is this our intention? To preserve wildlife, but in small enough numbers to be a negligible factor in our lives? Visible on safaris, while unseen otherwise? Why preserve them at all? Do we want to ‘control’ the number of these species to effectively silence the nagging voices of conservationists and animal rights activists? Or perhaps we are trying to ‘manage’ population of species in the forest that may be of use to us Medicinal herbs, trees that we use for timber, firewood and fruits? Or, are we trying to save wildlife so we do not have the blood of a species on our hands; because we believe in our heart of hearts that these species have a right to share these lands with humans? Potentially we could believe, to some extent, what Doomsday environmentalists claim. That saving the tiger and the elephant is going to ensure a healthy earth; one that can sustain us for much longer than a weakened de-greened planet can.

It has often seemed that it is the ethical reason that has spurred conservation interests among many Indians. In all sincerity, we do not want to be the ones who push species off the cliff. Our culture has ingrained in us tolerance rather than territorialisation of our lands. People in villages adjacent to forests, albeit not in that small paddy field in Assam, still speak of elephants with great respect, and when crops are raided, sadly speak of the shrinking homes of these animals rather than take to their spears. Indian wildlife biologists hold these values in esteem and do not hesitate to tout them in the eyes of the world. We talk about the fact that the only large mammal we have lost for many years now is the cheetah, a distinction not shared by many countries. The fact that animals enter our fields, eat our produce, and yet often get away unscathed is truly commendable and we do not lose a chance to point this out to our more trigger-happy cousins in Europe and America. When conservationists around the world state that economics alone will save tigers for the morrow, it is the Indian hand that is raised in dissent.

However, for a few years now, there has been an increasing trend of poisoning elephants and bludgeoning leopards. And I begin to wonder. I proudly claim to be from a culture of tolerance. But the world has become small and our culture has encountered many global forces of change. We wear jeans while visiting temples and listen to Carnatic music accompanied by guitars. Where do our perspectives pertaining to other animals stand in this milieu?

It is in the face of this quandary that I question culling as a strategy. The same holds with translocation, labelling animals as ‘problem’ or naming elephants after terrorists. We could cull a wild pig and assuage the bitterness of one raided farmer, but what we are losing is another length of the fibre that runs through us; the fibre that allowed us to accept wildlife as part of our daily life.

If newspapers are to be believed, the question of Indian perspectives surviving the tide of global forces is answered. I have already spoken of elephants on the rampage, wild pigs pillaging villages and leopards prowling our streets. We feed monkeys in our cities and towns and indirectly provide for their supper through our open garbage cans, while simultaneously cursing the growing ‘menace’ of these animals. Snakes are killed on sight, no questions asked. No matter that only a small proportion of Indian snakes are venomous enough to cause humans serious harm.

On the ground, however, I would have some hope. People are at crossroads. The pull of cultural strings that allows them to accept as part of life the occasional visit from animals is still non-negligible. But the strings are fraying, and we aren’t saving our forests from getting thinner. We suspect wildlife comes out into our fields due to the lack of food in the forests, while at the same time wielding the axe that lops their trees. We have in place a government compensation scheme to offset financial difficulties of living adjacent to wildlife. As it stands, few people receive compensation they are entitled to. However, given that we are amongst the few countries that have initiated such compensatory schemes, it is surprising that most conservationists are more inclined to dismiss it as a strategy rather than ensure a greater degree of competence in its implementation.

There is no doubt that there is competition for space and resources between humans and wildlife, especially certain species such as snakes, leopards, monkeys and elephants. And there is little doubt that this conflict needs to be addressed. We could find solutions like culling and translocation that only serve to further weaken the cultural bond with wildlife that we are trying so hard to preserve. But if this is the perspective we want to foster, let us do it in all honesty. Let us not label the elephant our symbol of heritage and of global terrorism in the same breath. Let us forget about declaring community and conservation reserves, do away with eco-development programmes and put aside our whimsical notions of harmonious co-existence. Let us relocate all humans from regions where they may be in danger of encountering wild animals and house wildlife in inviolate areas large enough to hold their populations. As of now, our attitude to wildlife conservation is fundamentally flawed, where we endorse a “not-in-my-backyard” conservation perspective while simultaneously pushing for humans and wildlife to be neighbours without fences. 

The road ahead looks dismally unpromising, the only hope being either to promote inviolate areas or a more inclusive perspective to conservation. And by inclusive, I don’t mean more humans in wildlife programmes. I’m advocating that we humans should once again allow our lifestyles to become more inclusive of wildlife. They are not marauders of our lands; they are not problem animals to do away with whenever they happen to enter our vicinity; they do not prowl our streets with the intention of decimating any human that catches their eye. They are, as we are, caught in a whirlpool of human development, looking for food to fill their stomachs and a place to sleep in a world they rightfully share with us, the world we humans claim to be our own.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Concept of vegetarianism as a way of life

by Maneka Gandhi

I am reading an interesting book sent to me from a PFA member in Canada: The Bloodless Revolution, A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern times By Tristan Stuart. What this erudite and well researched book proves again and again is that the concept of vegetarianism as a way of life was gifted to the world by India and that every philosopher who propagated it from Pythagoras onwards learnt it from our country. Vegetarianism is such a simple concept. But the West always equated it with eating bread and water only, fasting, nut cutlets, losing huge amounts of weight, eschewing alcohol, and never telling lies…. In short, a monastic, puritanical, severe life without any joy in it. Which is why, it was seen as crazy. It took centuries of foreign visits to India for the rest of the world to realize that you could live a life of great comfort, health and laughter without killing every other species.

Once people understood, many travellers carried the philosophy back to their countries. This is the story that the book attempts to tell. How wonderful that we should have taught man how to live in harmony and how truly terrible that we have strayed so far from our own way of life that today we rejoice that we are the 4th largest meat exporter in the world, the largest leather producer and one of the three countries majorly responsible for global warming by our breeding of animals for milk and meat

An interesting part of the book was a short history of the Mughal rulers of India and how they adopted Indian customs. When the Afghan invader Mohammad bin Ghaur came to northern India in the 12th century he was given the title of mleccha, a beef eating barbarian. A pun on his name made it Gori -foreigner or enemy of cows - Go as in cow and ari as in enemy, eater of foul foods. 

The culture clash became serious and later Mughals realized the benefits of bowing to local dietary demands. Babar was the first Mughal to rule undivided India. Humayun, his son, was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India. He lost his kingdom early to Sher Shah Suri, but with Persian aid, he eventually regained an even larger one. On the eve of his death in 1556, the Mughal Empire spanned almost one million square kilometres. His peaceful personality, patience and gentle speech earned him the title Insan-i-Kamil.

Plotting his revenge, Humayun cut down on his use of opium, renounced alcohol, and even became a vegetarian for a year in order to purify himself for his conquest. When he returned in 1556, he learned about Hindu customs, especially regarding meat. He shunned beef in sympathy for his Hindu subjects.

His son, the emperor Akbar was immensely impressed with Jainism, specially the part about ahimsa. He issued edicts throughout his reign forbidding the killing of animals and fish and discouraging meat eating for upto six months of the year. He renounced hunting, abstained from eating meat most of the year, and officially limited the days on which animals could be slaughtered. Such legislation had not been seen since Emperor Ashok’s rock edicts of the 3rd century. His official chronicler Abu’l Fazl ‘Allami writes in the Ain-I-Akbari, “ His majesty has a great dis-inclination for flesh and he frequently says Providence has prepared a variety of food for man, but through ignorance and gluttony, none seem to have an eye for the beauty inherent in the prevention of cruelty, he destroys living creatures, and makes his body a tomb for beasts. If I were not a king, I would leave off eating flesh at once and now it is my intention to quit it by degrees.”

Akbar‘s favourite food was Khichri (rice and lentils) with curd and it was made every day. Akbar went to remark “Blood is the principal of life. To avoid eating thereof is to honour life.” Indologist and biographer of Akbar, Vincent Smith notes: “Akbar’s action in abstaining almost wholly from meat and in issuing stringent prohibitions, resembling those of Asoka, restricting to the narrowest limit the destruction of animal life, certainly was taken in obedience to the doctrine of his Jaina teachers.”

Akbar wrote and promulgated his Divine Faith (Din-I-Ilahi) that suggested a rational and ethical mysticism .The goal was union of the soul with God, and the ethics called for giving charity, sparing animals, permitting widows to remarry, and prohibiting child marriage, incest and forced sati. Beef was forbidden. Akbar declared firmans (royal decrees) banning the killing of animals during the four month Jain festivals of Paryusana and Mahavir Jayanti. During a hunt in 1578, Akbar experienced divine revelations: his attendants told him that “the beasts of the forest had with a tongueless tongue imparted divine secrets to him… he in thanksgiving for this great boon set free many thousands of animals.

Active men made endeavour that no one should touch the feather of a finch and that they should allow all the animals to depart according to their habit.” Akbar’s son and successor Jehangir praised his father publicly for doing without meat for nine months of the year calling his vegetarian food “Sufi food”. Jehangir issued his own firmans continuing the practice. Jehangir continued Akbar’s abstention, and even added Thursday for fasting.

In 1618 he went against all the mores of his times and took a vow to stop hunting and “to injure no living thing with my own hand.” One of Akbar and Jehangir’s favourite imperial icons was the image of the wolf and the lion in peaceful company with the lamb and the ox. Shah Jehan came to power in 1628 and while little is known about his diet, he had his throne in Red Fort, Delhi embellished with semi precious stones depicting Orpheus charming animals with his music. How strange that he should choose Greek mythology’s pre eminent vegetarian!

Shah Jehan’s son Aurangzeb ascended the throne in 1658 and is known for his strict adherence to Islamic practices and his distaste for local religion. Few people know that he became a strict vegetarian eating “nothing that has enjoyed life.” He ate only vegetables and sweetmeats. He drank water from Ganga river, ate Khichri, and bread made from Jowar and Bajra. During Aurangzeb’s reign, the imperial kitchens developed a ‘Khichri Alamgiri’ named after Aurangzeb himself. .Read the book and see India’s glorious heritage. Anyone can be violent. It takes true wisdom to be non violent. 

Bengal to set up rescue centres for stray jumbos

Kolkata, March 27 (IANS) In a bid to reduce man-elephant conflict and rehabilitate jumbos driven away from the herd, the West Bengal government is planning to set up two 'Elephant Rescue Centres' on a pilot basis.
"Instances of elephants straying away from the forests have been on the rise, resulting in man-elephant conflicts in the state. The stray elephants often destroy crops or kill humans or are killed in the process," West Bengal Forest Minister Hiten Barman told IANS.
"In order to rehabilitate the stray jumbos, we plan to set up two rescue centres of 100 acre each in north and south Bengal. Currently, a survey is on to locate the proper locations of the centres and a report of the same is expected by the end of this month," Barman added.
Once the survey is completed, the report will then be sent to the union forest ministry for its approval, informed the minister. While two persons were trampled to death by elephants in a West Midnapore village early this month, a herd of elephants destroyed crops in Hooghly Monday.
Meanwhile, the Alipore Zoological Gardens, one of the oldest zoos in India, has witnessed the death of 18 different animals in the last eight months. As per a report by the state zoo authority, 18 animals including two red kangaroos brought from the Czech Republic last year have died between June 2011 and February 2012 at the zoo.
Most of the deaths have been due to natural causes while two of the animals died because of infighting. The issue of the animal deaths at the Alipore Zoo was also raised in the West Bengal assembly last week with the members alleging that the guidelines under the Bio diversity Act were not being adhered to by the zoo authorities.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Functioning of SPCA ineffective, say activists

‘Most of the time, Society does not respond to calls for help'

The ineffective functioning of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Coimbatore, has been an issue raised by animal rights activists in the district for a long time, but has failed to draw the attention of the authorities. The SPCAs were formed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Section S.O.271 (E) of the Act defines the responsibilities of the Society as to aid the Government, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and local authorities in enforcing the provisions of the Act and make by-laws and guidelines for efficient discharge of its duties. It could seize animals subjected to cruelty and hand over offenders to police. 

According to the Act, it is the State Government's duty to provide adequate land and other facilities to construct infirmaries and animal shelters with a fulltime veterinary doctor and other staff for running the facilities. Animal rights activists complained that most of the time, the Society did not respond to calls for help, while, the SPCA officials cited inadequate funding as the reason for their inability to carry out their duties. The Society barely had the facilities mentioned in the Act. The members revealed that they had not met for a board meeting for a long time. 

“An amount of Rs. 8-9 crores is allotted by the Central Government and this has to be distributed among around 1,200 organisations. Funds were allocated based on the number of animals rescued or sheltered by SPCAs,” said Vinod Kumar, Assistant Secretary, AWBI. According to him, the maintenance of 500-1,000 animals required around 20-25 lakh a year. If the Government allotted more funds, AWBI could raise the monitory assistance provided to SPCAs. He added that the SPCA officers could seek the assistance of local authorities and NGOs to carry out their activities. 

The Government allotted funds for schemes including maintenance of animals, constructing shelter, purchase of ambulance and providing relief to animals affected by natural calamities, he added. Animal rights activists pointed to the lack of interest and mismanagement on part of SPCA members for inaction. “If project proposals and reports were submitted on time, AWBI provided the money needed to carry them out,” said Mini Vasudevan, managing trustee, Humane Animal Society. 

According to Kalpana Vasudevan, AWBI member and managing trustee of People for Animals Unit II, AWBI provided enough funds for organising ABC programme, SPCA had not taken any interest in this. There was just one ABC centre at Seeranaickenpalayam. SPCA was not properly assisting or monitoring Animal Birth Control (ABC) programmes in the district.

“The Coimbatore SPCA exists only on paper. Several requests over the past years to revive it had fallen on deaf ears. Over an acre of land owned by SPCA lying adjacent to the ABC centre at Seeranaickenpalayam is left idle for years and no effort has been made to utilise it to shelter animals,” said Ms. Mini. 

According to Poorva Joshipura, Chief Functionary, PETA India, the inspector should be present through out the day to ensure smooth functioning of the society. It should conduct awareness programmes to encourage people to adopt animals, organise sterilisation programme for community dogs and cats and provide temporary shelter for abandoned animals. 

Many activists complained that the Society had declined their offer to provide assistance in its activities. Reconstituting the Society though a transparent process would help revive it, they suggested. The Society headed by District Collector M. Karunakaran has members including Joint Director of Animal Husbandry Department S. Shanmugham, T. Kandasamy, Conservator of Forests (Coimbatore Circle), Advocate N. Sundaravadivelu and Chief Education Officer T. Rajendhiran. J. Fredric Vimalan is the SPCA inspector. Two representatives each from NGOs and business houses, Superintendent of Police (Rural) are also members of the Society. 

Saturday, 24 March 2012

JNU students' group wants pork and beef served in canteen

To press for its demand, 'New Materialist' plans to defy law and organise a beef, pork food festival on the varsity campus

With recommencement of elections for the students' union in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after four years, some off-beat political activities too have gained momentum on the campus. A group of students that calls itself 'New Materialist' is up in arms against the varsity administration. However, their remonstration has nothing to do with the fee structure or facilities in hostel, but to gratify their taste buds. The group wants the administration to allow serving beef and pork in the canteen.

The group had organised a public meeting last week, wherein it was decided that the group would do all to ensure its demand is met. Surprisingly, it is said that some professors too had lent their support to the New Materialists. "The JNU campus was always dominated by the Left. Scared of losing votes, the student's union never bothered about issues that are of concern to the minority community," said Inba Karunko, a member of the group.
He added that the varsity administration has prepared a jacketed menu that influences Brahmanic taste. "When chicken and mutton can be served in the campus, why not beef and pork?" Karunko questioned, adding that just because the majority community doesn't approve of it, doesn't mean students can't eat what they like.
Karunko claimed there are thousands of students from Northeast and south India who eat pork and beef.

"Respecting the need of such students, serving beef and pork should be allowed on the campus," he said. The group has also started a Facebook page to garner support for its demand. "We'll soon start a signature campaign and present our demand before the administration. To start with, at least one dhaba that serves beef and pork should be started on the campus," said Suraj Beri, another group member. He added that later they'd demand to add beef and pork in the hostel food menu.

When reminded that consuming cow meat is illegal in the city, a student leader said, "Such laws are made for political reasons. We are against this law. In fact, to defy the law and to press for our demand, we are planning to organise a beef, pork food festival in the university campus."

Friday, 23 March 2012

Suggestion to allow export of beef reversed

NAGPUR: In a victory for bodies working for cow protection, the Planning Commission has withdrawn the controversial recommendation by a working group on animal husbandry and dairying for the 12th Five Year Plan to lift ban on beef exports from India. 

In November 2011, the working group chaired by VK Taneja, vice-chancellor of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary & Animal Science University, Ludhiana, and experts, scientists, NGOs, senior government functionaries and other stakeholders, had recommended allowing beef exports by revising the EXIM policy. 

TOI reported about this on February 23, leading to protests by United Nations (UN) affiliated International Organisation for Animal Protection (OIPA) in India along with People for Animals (PFA), Haryana, which was the first to petition the Planning Commission to withdraw the recommendation. 

"If accepted, the decision could have led to large-scale slaughter of cows," said Naresh Kadyan, India's OIPA representative. 

Kannubhai Savadia, founder of Sukrut Nirman Charitable Trust, Nagpur, too had registered his strong protest with the plan panel. Buckling under pressure from activists, on March 16, the Planning Commission has admitted the recommendation was an inadvertent clerical mistake and it should be considered as deleted. "The necessary change has been made to the report," the plan panel said. 

It added, "The issue involves cultural sensitivity of millions of people. Hence, it cannot be viewed purely on a 'commodity mode'. The Planning Commission has no intention of making any recommendation to change the present position." 

"So far as trade in beef is concerned, it is well known that there is a ban on beef exports for decades along with ban on beef imports. It's a wise move," said Sukanya Kadyan, OIPA's event director in India. 

Based on the TOI report, media adviser of OIPA Abhishek Kadyan had on February 27 filed a protest petition with Surinder Singh, adviser, Planning Commission, demanding scrapping of the recommendation to lift ban on beef export. "The cow, among the most sacred of animals, is looked upon as a 'motherly figure'. She bestows wealth, strength, abundance, selfless-giving and spiritual bliss. Such recommendations have hurt our sentiments," said Savadia. 

Savadia, who is also honorary animal welfare officer of the committee appointed by the Mumbai high court, said that in the light of Supreme Court directives, the ministry of commerce and industry in 2007 had categorically denied requirement of change in EXIM policy which permits only export of buffalo meat. 

Moolchand Sharma, in charge of BJP's Kisan Cell in Himachal Pradesh, and Dr SK Mittal, BJP's gau-convener in Karnataka, both hailed TOI's role in highlighting the biggest flaw in the working group report. 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Meet your closest wild neighbour

Some kids in a remote village are busy using the catapult to hunt down squirrels. This is not a game. Nor is the squirrel killed for food. But these kids are hunting squirrels so that the tail could be turned into painters’ brushes. Our closest wild neighbour is a squirrel and each morning we see it rushing around in the gallery trying to find bits of breakfast leftovers that we had consumed out there.

There are about 285 species of squirrels found in the world and in India alone — where most assume the existence of two or three species — there are 28 species of squirrel found, which constitutes about 10 per cent of the world population. The commonly found squirrel is called the palm squirrel: The ones in south India are the three striped palm squirrel while in the north we have five striped palm squirrel. I got the opportunity to visit Namdapha tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh recently, and read some information chart, which stated that there are seven diurnal and seven nocturnal species in this area alone!

Squirrel belongs to an order of mammals called rodentia, which includes all the rodents. Rodents are those animals, which have two pairs of front teeth in the upper and lower jaws, called the incisors, which grow continuously. Squirrels keep them short by gnawing, biting or chewing.

Try giving the squirrel some peanuts — with and without shell. The animal will prefer the shelled nuts and eats in its precise posture. Squirrels cannot digest cellulose; their major diet is proteins, carbohydrate and fats. Usually, they survive on nuts and fruits but some eat insects and hunt down chicks. Squirrels are generally intelligent and persistent animals and find new ways to look out for food.

Some squirrels breed twice a year and the young ones are born toothless and blind. The squirrels’ nest is called a drey, which is made by collecting fur, cloth pieces and grasses to make it soft and warm. They mature in a year’s time. There are two types of species: Ground dwelling and tree dwelling. The ground dwelling ones are social animals and the tree dwelling ones are solitary animals. In Maharashtra, the big squirrel, Indian giant squirrel, has been given the status of the state animal of Maharashtra. Althoug giant squirrels are not capable of powered flight like birds or bats, they are capable of gliding between trees. A maximum of 90-metre flight has been recorded. The squirrels do not have any wings but have skin from wrist to ankle, which expands like a parachute and helps them glide.

Squirrel is a safe neighbour: Almost no chance of getting any rabies type diseases from them. But they can be mischievous and, thus, create problems. An adventurous squirrel brought down the functioning of the NASDAQ stock market by chewing away the power supply wires, which stopped the trading for 82 minutes leading to at least 20 million share trade being put on hold that day and caused many setbacks for the traders. Perhaps, this squirrel is the only one that caused maximum damage to the human kind by squirrel community.

Some people also keep them as pets and in the northeast they are also consumed: One can see them being sold in the food markets openly. If you do care for these mischievous creatures, the least that you could do is ask for a synthetic paintbrush next time.

(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)

Leopard stuck under IAF runway for 11 days, rescue efforts on

Chandigarh, Mar 22 (PTI) A leopard has been stuck in a 75-feet long cable-carrying pipe underneath the IAF runway here for the past 11 days. Forest officials said frantic efforts were on in a bid to free the big cat stuck in the underground pipe at the Indian Air Force station's subsidiary runway here. Officials from the nearby Chhatbir Zoological Park today laboured hard for new methods to rescue the animal after earlier efforts failed. 

Chandigarh's Chief Wildlife Warden Santosh Kumar said today they were hopeful the leopard will be taken out alive soon. Over the past few days, the officials have devised several techniques, including keeping a chicken and a goat near the pipe as bait, flushing water down the pipe and bursting crackers but the leopard has refused to come out. Experts from the Wildlife Institute of India also visited the site yesterday. About a fortnight back, IAF personnel had seen the animal at the station and the Wildlife Department was informed about it. The leopard was then spotted inside the pipe under the IAF runway. 

"He can survive without any food for about 15 days. Though he has taken water, but the leopard has refused to take any food. We have confined him to a 25-foot area now and are hoping he will come out soon. We are trying different methods and keeping our fingers crossed," Kumar said. He said it was not known how the leopard landed in the IAF area. "But it looks like that he has been inside the pipe on earlier occasions too," the official said, adding a team of veterinary doctors was also present at the site. PTI SUN KUN RBT 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Food for thought to prevent bullocks from dying

Group of youngsters collect Rs 30,000, buy 12 tonnes of fresh grass from Aarey Colony and feed 500 bullocks across the city

With several bullocks finding their way to abattoirs or dying due to starvation, after the recent bullock cart ban imposed by the Controller of Rationing, a group of animal lovers have joined hands to feed these distressed animals.

On Sunday, a group of youngsters from the city pooled in resources and got a truckload of fodder for 500 bullocks in the city. “When we heard that bullocks were being taken to slaughter houses since their owners could no longer afford to feed them, we decided to do something,” said Rakesh Jain, who heads Ahimsa Sangh, a group of animal lovers.

The group collected Rs 30,000 and bought 12 tonne of fresh grass from Aarey Colony. They rushed to various places in the city where bullocks are kept. Their first stop was the Gadi Adda at Sewri where around 200 bullocks and their owners live.

The youngsters ensured that all the bullocks were fed and enough fodder was left for the next day. They also went to Dharavi, Santacruz and the western suburbs to feed smaller herds there.

On February 22 and March 9, Mumbai Mirror had reported on the sorry state of bullocks and their owners after the ban.

On January 31, the Controller of Rationing had issued a circular banning the use of bullock carts for transporting kerosene. The ban was imposed after People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking a ban on the exploitation of bullocks. “Every day, we spend Rs 150 to feed a bullock. With no source of income what are we supposed to do?” asked Yusuf Khan, a bullock cart owner.

While PETA maintains that the ban will protect the future generation of bullocks, some activists feel the ban is illogical. “The government should have worked out on a rehabilitation policy so that the animals are not sold to slaughter houses,” said Fizzah Shah, head of In Defence of Animals.

Shah and other animal lovers have joined hands and launched the ‘feed the bullocks’ programme. They have also intervened in PETA’s petition, saying that that the ban should be lifted till a rehabilitation programme is chalked out for the animals.

“Till the time we get relief from the HC, feeding the bulls is the only way to keep them alive,” said Ajay Marathe, another animal lover, who has been treating injured bulls for the past few years.

They are our heritage

Not so long ago, elephants in India were treated with respect. So, where exactly did we go wrong?

On October 13, 2010, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife accepted the recommendation given by the 12-member Elephant Task Force — constituted by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) —that elephants would be given the status of National Heritage Animals.

Still, the suffering of elephants is apparent around the country. Some are kept captive in zoos, some in circuses, some in temples, some used for begging in urban areas, some poached, some made victims of bombs… the list of atrocities inflicted on elephants in India carries on. The question here is: Where exactly did we go wrong. Not so long ago, elephants in India were treated with respect.

Anushree Sahai, who grew up in the tea gardens of Assam, remembers the days when it was common to see elephant herds walking through tea gardens, along roads or hillsides. “You could always tell when a herd had passed by because of the fallen trees. These trees would be the ones that could not bear the brunt of elephantine bodies rubbing against them to relieve itchy backs. Often, when she and her parents would be returning home from neighbouring towns or other tea gardens, they would find elephant herds seated in the middle of the road, hindering traffic, much like cows seated or wandering on city roads today. She and her parents would have to wait till the herd got up and moved away. Sometimes, this could even take till morning.

Cut back to the present: Early January 2012, concerned about the increasing number of elephant deaths around the country, the Karnataka High Court directed the state and Union governments to constitute a task force comprising experts from various fields to specify short-term and long-term steps to look into and prevent elephant deaths.

India has more than 50 per cent of the wild elephant population and about 20 per cent of the captive elephant population of Asia. A survey by Project Elephant in 2000 found a total of 3,400 domesticated elephants: 2,540 privately owned, 190 in temples, 480 with forest departments, almost 150 in zoos and circuses. By 2009, about 700 elephants were in captivity across the state of Kerala: about 260 with the Devaswoms (temples) and 440 individually owned.

Hindus worship Lord Ganesh, the elephant god. There are special pujas only for Ganesh, and no religious occasion is said to be complete without invoking a special prayer for Lord Ganesh. Yet the condition and treatment of elephants in India is anything but god like.

Elephants at temples are traditionally kept shackled with chains attached to a front and a hind leg, sometimes even to three legs. They can lie down, but only with difficulty, and they can move only about one metre forward and backward. They suffer from skin ailments, eye infections, cataracts and diseases of the foot.

Elephants are social creatures, and in the wild, the females live in close-knit family groups. They spend about 18 hours a day walking, feeding, bathing in waterholes and interacting with one another. They are intelligent and sensitive, and they mourn the loss of relatives, just as humans do. Captive conditions fail to provide an interesting, stimulating, rewarding environment for elephants.

In the wild, elephants range over a living space of approximately 200 square kilometres. But in captivity they are confined to a living space of less than 15 square meters each.

The methods used to control elephants are very cruel and threaten the mahouts as well. Hands-on training requires keepers to maintain absolute dominance over the elephants. To achieve this, keepers initially inflict pain on the elephants and then reinforce their dominance by threatening them. This results in confusion and fear and disrupts the elephants’ natural behaviour. Elephants also have a natural desire to challenge other elephants within their group for a higher status as they mature. This can lead to unpredictable bouts of aggression, which are extremely dangerous to keepers and have led to many deaths and injuries.

It is not just captive elephants who suffer. Their free roaming cousins fare no better. Elephants face threats around the country from large-scale habitat degradation, loss of habitat quality, fragmentation, and conflict with humans.

Added to this list is another threat of collisions with trains. According to the report entitled “Gajah — Securing the Future for Elephants in India”, compiled by the task force formed by the MOEF, elephants have been mowed down by trains in states like Assam, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Orissa.

Assam has earned the distinction of having the largest number of elephant deaths as a result of collisions with trains. About 36 per cent of the elephant deaths on rail tracks have been reported in Assam, followed by 26 per cent in Bengal. Around 12 elephants have been killed in the last few years in the Chakardo area near Deepor Beel, close to Garbhanga reserve forest in Assam and since 2003, 19 elephants have been killed by trains in the area of Siliguri Junction-Alipurduar section, which cuts across forests in the Dooars. The reason cited is lack of co-ordination between the railways and the forest department.

Elephants cross railway tracks searching for food, water and forestland for shelter. They face danger from trains each time they do this. To compound this danger, some of the tracks running through the elephant corridors are elevated and curved. The drivers of speeding trains say this makes it difficult for them to see the elephants till it is too late. Trains are supposed to maintain a speed of 20 to 40 km, which they rarely do.

Sadly, most of the deaths keep occurring at the same points, since many elephant corridors go across the tracks. The forest department and the railways have identified 23 such accident-prone areas in Assam alone.

In the worst tragedy ever, seven elephants, including two babies and five adults were killed when they were hit by a speeding goods train in September 2010. The elephants were trying to help two of their babies who were trapped on the tracks in a densely forested area in the northern district of Jalpaiguri, where over 20 elephants had already died in the past one year.

The adults had crowded around the babies to protect them when the train hit them. According to Atanu Raha, chief conservator of forests for West Bengal, “Five elephants died immediately on the track while two others succumbed to their injuries a few hours later.” The surviving members of the herd stayed at the accident scene till the morning, watching and mourning over their dead and injured companions. An elephant was killed by a speeding goods train near Jorhat, Assam, in December 2011. A 30-strong elephant herd came out from the nearby Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary when the mishap occurred.

Research has revealed that mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB can spread to humans from elephants. According to reports, of 387 captive elephants examined for the infection of tuberculosis, 59 elephants (15.24 per cent) were found to be suffering from the disease in south India. Owners of most of these infected animals were not aware of the problem and the elephants were not being provided with medical treatment.

Elephants can also cause other zoonotic diseases like anthrax, mycobacterium bovis (cause of bovine TB which can be passed to humans), poxvirus infection (similar to cowpox) and salmonellosis.

In 2009, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), after a five-year study by a citizens’ committee, which found zoo life can be profoundly unhealthy for the animals, ordered that almost 150 elephants be removed from our zoos and circuses. Unfortunately, these elephants have had no place to go till now. But with a rehabilitation centre coming up in Bangalore, things might look up for elephants.

Prevention is better

Some very basic measures can be undertaken to help these gentle giants. It should be made mandatory that the trains should maintain a speed of 20 to 40 kilometers per hour while passing through elephant corridors. To ensure this, like in Sri Lanka, all trains running through elephant corridors must carry a forest guard when they pass through that stretch. (A project named The Train Hits Mitigation Project, implemented by the Assam forest department, Northeast Frontier Railways and supported by NGOs, which aim at intensifying patrolling claims that it has stopped almost 80 fatalities from taking place in one year. Patrolling by the team in the Deepor Beel railway stretch near Guwahati averted an accident saving a herd of about 15 wild elephants.)

The government should immediately level the two high-rise spots in the Chakardo area near Deepor Beel, which trap elephants when they come face to face with a train by cutting off their escape routes. The government should also have elevated railway tracks running through elephant corridors. There should be regular patrolling of the areas. Movement of elephants should be immediately passed on to the train drivers in that area so that they can slow down. Signs along the track should be installed warning drivers of elephant corridors. Awareness workshops should be conducted for the railway staff.

Amruta Ubale, Indian representative of Animal Equality, an animal rights organisation from UK, has outlined a number of suggestions to mitigate elephant deaths in a letter add­ressed to the Union minister of rail­ways and environment and forests. This includes installation of radar sensors, which will detect animals (moving or immobile) in front of the train and on tracks. These are commonly known as collision warning systems and are used by car companies like BMW and Volvo internationally.

India’s first-of-its-kind rehabilitation centre coming up in Bangalore, is heralded as a great move for the protection of elephants. It is being set up by Elephant Aid International and Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation on 80 hectares, and will provide a refuge to seven former zoo elephants. These rehabilitation centres will teach formerly captive elephants to be semi-wild and live the rest of their lives in a forested setting. Animal activists hope that the government will emulate and set up many such centres.

(The writer is an environmentalist and former head, Peta, India) 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Beef sentiment becomes ‘fleshpoint’ at Osmania

After the Telangana agitation, it is the “beef sentiment” that is doing the rounds on the Osmania University campus which has been calm for over eight months since the dilution of the agitation for a separate state.
The flashpoint this time is the demand of 2,000-strong Dalit students of the university for beef to be served in university canteens which is opposed by the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

In protest against the upper class attitude, Dalit students plan to hold a “beef festival” on the campus in April to coincide with the birth anniversary celebrations of Babu Jagjivan Ram on April 5, Dr B R Ambedkar on April 14 and Jyotiba Phule on April 11.

The Dalit students plan to cook beef in the open and serve it to the gathering as an expression of their cultural identity and traditional right.

But the university authorities have refused permission for such a festival in the face of hostile postures by the ABVP.

University Vice-Chancellor S Satyanarayana said the issue was very sensitive and, given the history of caste tensions on the campus, the authorities fear that the issue may become a flashpoint for another bout of campus mob fury.

Dalit campaigners, however, say by denying permission, the university is resorting to cultural imposition on Dalits and treating them as apartheid in their own land.

“Dalit students have a right to practise their food habits as protected under the Constitution,” said Dalit writer and academic Kancha Ilaiah.

At present, chicken, mutton and eggs are served as part of the non-vegetarian menu at the university hostels. The politics of food on the Osmania campus, known as the nerve centre of Telangana movement and also a hotbed of radicalism, has triggered a totally new vista of agitation.

Charging the authorities with imposing a culture of “food fascism” prominent Dalit activist  Bojja Tarakam said it was an attempt to lampooning the Dalits in the name of caste and religion.

“Beef has nothing to do with hurting any sentiments as majority of meat eating population in the world, including India, are beef lovers,” he said. The Osmania vice-chancellor has asked senior faculty members to hold talks with the student representatives and sort out the matters amicably.

In the past, there were some instances of scuffle between the ABVP and Dalit students on the issue of organising beef festival on the campus and the event was put off. “In their petition submitted to the vice-chancellor, the Dalit students alleged that their food habits and traditions were being ridiculed and insulted by ABVP members,” said a university spokesman.

Sahibabad reeling under animosity between industries and meat processing units

GHAZIABAD: Sahibabad industrial area, which is crumbling due to lack of infrastructure and civic amenities, is reeling under the animosity between the industries and meat processing units. The former has accused meat processing units of flouting norms, causing pollution and foul smell, the latter is refuted all these allegations unequivocally.

Though industrialists have made their displeasure known through their local associations, no solution to the stench situation has come forth yet. "This is one issue which has been taken to the authorities concerned time and again. We have even complained to the Pollution Control Board, but no action has been taken so far," said CL Dhir, Chairman, Industries Forum, Sahibabad.

The players acknowledge the fact that the meat processing industry is one of the biggest revenue generators in the area. The meat processing units in the area account for over Rs 1,200 crore merely through exports.

However, possibly its negatives are outweighing its positives. "No doubt, these are export-oriented units, but they (stench from the units) have become a nuisance for the area," added Mr Dhir.

Sanjay Sharma, Director, India Automotives, has been at the receiving end of the entire episode. "It's becoming impossible to survive here. There are days when foul smell does not stop emanating from these areas. It is unbearable and hazardous," said Mr Sharma, whose company manufactures auto parts in Sahibabad Industrial Area since 2006.

Neeraj Arora, Director, Lustre Illumination said, "The disposition of material in our premises is not proper. Vultures often hover over these units and drop shreds of flesh in our premises. They have created a lot of mess, but we cannot do anything," said Mr Arora, the owner of a decorative lights manufacturing unit with a turnover of Rs 3 crore.

Industrialists opined that the area is planned shabbily with units on both sides of a narrow road. Trucks of meat units block the roads, hampering traffic movement in the area, the players said unanimously. Often trucks are found parked at the gates of other units for several days, complained many.

Players are of the view that these meat-processing units should be relocated to some other area. Also, the proximity of these meat units to the residential areas makes their case weak. There have been complaints from residents to shut down meat units.

The Pollution Control Board (PCB) maintained regular checks are conducted and no norms were flouted by the meant units. However, "We have not received any complaint from anybody," said TU Khan, regional manager, PCB. "These are frozen units which are not abattoirs. Meat is only kept here," he said adding that the board would take action if these units are found to be deviating from set guidelines.


Rebutting claims made by industrialists, meat processing units see this as a non-issue raked by a few. "The problem has suddenly appeared out of nowhere," said Sanjay Tyagi, owner of MK Overseas, one of the 10-12 units present in the area said. "This is nothing but a political vendetta by some to bring us down." MK is one of the biggest units in the region, exporting meat worth Rs 400 crore annually. Mr Tyagi informed that his company was paying a mammoth 25 percent in taxes apart from bringing in foreign currency in the country.

Mr Prabhakar, manager, Frigorifico Allana Limited, another unit in the region, also denied any kind of wrong doing on their part. Taking a potshot at the players in his vicinity he said, "Even we have problems with other units. There is a chemical unit which we find as a problem. What will you do now? PCB checks our facilities twice in a mount and it found no problems so far." Allana has also been in this industrial area for two decades and exports meat worth Rs 200 crore.

After birds, it's animal scare at Indore Airport

INDORE: After birds' menace, the Ahilyabai Holkar Airport authorities are battling a new problem in the form of stray animals roaming on the runway. The presence of wild dogs and jackals on the runway is giving nightmares for the airlines operating from here. Airport officials are now planning to seek the help of forest department to deal with the problem.

On Friday, a jackal was spotted on the runway during landing of Delhi-Indore flight. The pilot had great difficulty in landing the aircraft safely. "Though this was first such incident after shifting of airport operation to the new terminal building in February, we still are taking no chances. We will be taking up the issue with the forest department officials to keep wild dog and jackal away from the runway," said an Airport official seeking anonymity.

When contacted, DFO Saeed Khan told TOI, "The forest department has not received any request from airport authority in this regard. We are willing to assist in every possible manner to deal with the problem." Even in the past, the department has been sending its team to catch wild animals from the airport area, he added.

"We usually send our rescue team with cage, who set trap and catch jackals and leave them in forest," said Khan adding that in the recent past, forest department had caught three jackals at the airport. However, he said that wild dog doesn't come under wild animal category and hence it was the responsibility of civic body to catch them.

He further said that airports are generally located on the outskirts of the city and are surrounded by villages and areas without much habitation making it easier for wild animals to stray in. In the areas around Indore airport, jackal, wild dog and few other wild animals are found.

Airport Authourity of India (AAI) has marked Indore airport as sensitive in view of the large number of presence of birds around the airport. Since June 2011, eight incidents of bird-hit have been reported at Indore airport damaging the aircraft.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Owners flout ban on horse ride in plateau

PUNE: An investigation by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) on Thursday revealed that horse rides are on offer at the volcanic plateau in Panchgani, popularly known as 'table land', despite a ban imposed by the Bombay High Court in 2002.

The investigation was conducted following the death of the school student, Tanushree Hedge, on Wednesday. The board found that neither the horse nor the handler was registered with the AWBI.

No medical examination of the handler was conducted and there was no post-mortem of the horse, said animal welfare officer Manoj Oswal. The board official also claimed that the animal did not die in the accident but breathed its last because its owners had tied the horse's legs and dumped it in the valley to die.

Oswal, who conducted the investigation, told TOI it was shocking that the horse, which was badly injured, was killed by the owners when they realised the animal will be of no use. "The investigation has revealed that there is not a single veterinary doctor to treat horses in Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani area and most of them depend on quacks," he said.

"There are around 160 horses used for joyrides in this area, whereas the Bombay High Court had banned horse rides on the plateau, because of the ecology and safety aspect," he said.

Oswal said the accident showed that it was the reluctance of the horse owners to follow precautions and the direction of the AWBI and the police. "We can book a case under IPC Section 286, for negligence by the management in respect to animals causing grievous injury to human beings," he said.

Oswal said the horse owners did not take proper care of the animals and the handlers were not properly trained. "Three years ago, a camp was held for the horse owners on the safety aspect. The horses are treated cruelly and thorny bits are fitted in the horse's mouth," he said.

Oswal said, "After speaking to eyewitnesses, we found that the five girls sat on the horse cart and one of the girl pulled the harness of the horse which was given by the handler. The horse moved backwards and in panic the girl again pulled the harness. By the time the handler could control the situation, the accident had happened."

The Panchgani Municipal Council has given strict orders to implement the ban imposed by the Bombay High Court in 2002 barring horse buggies and horses on the ecologically sensitive Panchgani plateau.
Chief executive officer of the Panchgani Municipal Council Asha Raut told TOI, "Despite the ban, horse ride was offered on the table land. The horse owners were flouting the order so we have given strict direction to stop horse rides here."

'Thiruvambadi Thamban' gets a tranquilizer shot

Alappuzha: The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has denied permission for using elephants for the shooting of M Padmakumar's film Thiruvambadi Thamban with Jayaram in the lead.

The AWBI has also served show-cause notices to the film's producer and director for illegally parading 54 tuskers for the shooting of the film last December. The board has also asked the director to remove the scene in the film in which Jayaram (Thiruvambadi Thamban Tharakan) and Jagathy Sreekumar (Thiruvamabi Mathan Tharakan) have acted along with tuskers.

On March 1 this year, the AWBI's Performing Animals Sub Committee (PASC) considered six applications from various film producers for getting the board's no-objection certificate (NOC) for using animals for shooting. However, the PASC granted NOC to all other films except Thiruvambadi Thamban.

The film's director Padmakumar and producer Alexander John (Jini Cinema) submitted a letter of apology to the AWBI for using 54 elephants for the shooting of the film without AWBI permission on December 23, 2011 on the premises of the Kattakampal Temple in Thrissur. The board, however refused to entertain the letter and served them a show-cause notice on March 1 under section 26 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

As per the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, shooting with animals should be undertaken only after getting pre-shoot permission from AWBI. Padmakumar said they had sought permission for using two elephants for filming outside Kerala. "However, we did not get permission and they also sought some clarifications from us. We do want to highlight this issue. Though we have been directed to delete some scenes, we will take a decision on that only before we submit the movie to the Censor Board," he said. The show-cause notice followed a complaint lodged by V K Venkitachalam, secretary, Heritage Animal Task Force.

Venkitachalam said the film told the story of a family which indulged in illegal trading of elephants, which also is against rules. "The director of the movie has also used elephants in Nagercoil, Pollachi and Tirunelveli for the shooting without the permission of the board. We have also drawn the board's attention to this issue."

However, S Sureshkumar, the scriptwriter of the film, said the story of the film did not violate any rules. "We have not used 54 elephants for the shooting, and we have shot the real pooram at Kattakampal Temple. We have informed the AWBI this. And they have sought some clarifications from us after we failed to submit some papers. We will soon sort out all problems," he said.

MIL to put up solar fence to check stray animal menace on runway

NAGPUR: After planning to appoint an expert animal trapping firm to keep away stray and wild animals from the operational area, the Mihan India Limited (MIL) now has fixed plans to isolate the 3200-meter main runway from the rest of the area by putting up a 1.5 meter high exclusive 'solar fence'. MIL officials believe that after so many failed efforts, this is the only solution that can prevent any animal intrusion on the runway at the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International airport.

MIL chief operating officer (COO), Abadesh Prasad informed that despite initiating efforts like installation of zon guns, using fire crackers and even appointing team of experts to guard the runway, animal intrusion on runway has continued. As the final step to provide an animal-free runway,MIL chairman and managing director UPS Madan recently approved a 25 lakh proposal to install solar fencing on both sides of the runway. The solar company which has been awarded the contract will be responsible for maintenance and repairing of the fencing for the next five years.

Prasad informed that solar fencing can check unwelcome intruder the moment it touches the fence. It also gives a sharp, short but safe shock which is enough to create fear among stray animals like pigs, dogs and even monkeys that have created havoc at the city airport in last few years.

An alarm will also get activated and alert the guards posted at the protected area and help them counter the animal. With the solar fence at place, the burden on expert animal trapper's team will be reduced and will have to concentrate only on Alpha, Bravo and Air Force taxiways trapping and relocating animals from airport area, Prasad explained.

TOI has reported several times that animals like deer, monkeys, dogs and pigs frequent the airport operational area. Records too show that pilots have had to delay take-offs or abort landings almost 35 times in last five years (since 2007) after seeing animals on the runway. In 20 such cases, major disasters were averted when animals actually hit the aircraft.

Taking cognisance of TOI reports the then civil aviation minister Vyalar Ravi, directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and even National Commission for Human Rights (NHRC), in letters written to MIL officials, have asked to initiate concrete steps and install solar fencing around the runway, Prasad added.