The Railways has decided not to transport the four elephants from Assam’s Tinsukia district to Ahmedabad for now due to a 2016 order of the Supreme Court that had ruled out the inter-state transfer of elephants. Earlier, the railways had planned to move the elephants tonight by Brahmaputra Mail Express to avoid the PIL which is likely to be moved on Monday.
It may be mentioned here that, ignoring the heat of North India, the Assam Forest Department has granted permission for transportation of the four elephants to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad. Following the development, a Guwahati-based NGO, Avinava Prayash has filed a PIL at Gauhati High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India challenging the action of Assam Forest Department to transport four elephants amidst the heat wave in North India.
Interestingly, an RTI report filed by Sonitpur-based RTI activist Dilip Chandra Nath said that since 2007, 53 elephants were sent to other States like Kerala and Gujarat by the forest department but none of them came back. The report said that these elephants are being sent on a lease for a period of six months or one year but even after the period gets over, the elephants never come back.
The existing elephants in Ahmedabad are tied so closely together and were forced to live with very little water, food and sleep. Also, in Kerala, the elephants were treated the worst. Though, the elephants’ care is entrusted to their keepers, commonly known as mahouts, they are far from being gentle souls. As per a BBC report, half of mahouts were found to have drinking problems.
Experts suggested that an elephant needs 200 kg of tree leaves and 200 litres of water every day. But, a majority of the captive elephants get less than one-tenth the required quantity because of the religious festivals in the States like Kerala and Gujarat.