The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) announced on Thursday that plans were on to shift its office from Chennai to Delhi. Speaking to the press at the Chennai office, AWBI Chairman SP Gupta said, “As per the rules, this(office) has to be at Delhi. I have spoken to all employees here. They are all willing to go to Delhi.”
On January 12, TNM had exclusively reported that there were plans to shift the AWBI office from Chennai to Delhi.
The Animal Welfare Board of India was set up under Section IV of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act(1960). Since its inception in 1962, AWBI has operated from Chennai. Rukmini Devi Arundale, dancer and social activist was instrumental in its constitution donating the Valmiki Nagar building to the Board.
Later, in 1991, the DMK government allotted 1,400 sq m of land in Chennai’s Thiruvanmiyur solely for the AWBI’s use.
Adding that the move to Delhi was part of the “three-tier” system with a national board, state boards and district boards, Gupta explained, “The honourable Supreme Court has given the directive that to prevent cruelty of animals, every state government should have(such a) board. In the districts, there will be a district welfare board. After so many years, this has not been implemented.” He also said that a nominee of the AWBI would be there in each of these boards.
Speaking to TNM earlier, Gupta had said that they plan to keep the Chennai office running as a regional one, overseeing animal welfare in south Indian states. It is unclear, however, a regional office fits into the three-tier system.
On what happens to the building in Chennai, he said, “This could be made the regional office so we can accommodate those who are having hardships also.”
At present, AWBI consists of 22 members even though the total number should be 28 as per the PCA Act. Of these, 10 members have their official addresses listed as Delhi with no members based in Chennai and one member from Karnataka.
However, contrary to Gupta’s claims that all employees were agreeable to shift the office from Chennai to Delhi, one source had earlier told TNM that AWBI Board members, who had been settled and working in Chennai for decades were not keen on uprooting and shifting to Delhi. But the source added that it did not seem like they’d have a choice.
The decision to move AWBI from Chennai to Delhi has been mooted before – once during the tenure of MC Daga between 1987 and 1988 and another time between 2003 and 2004 when Justice Guman Mal Lodha was the chairperson.
However, the proposals were scrapped following DMK’s opposition to the move. DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson TKS Elangovan had told TNM that the party would once again oppose any such move to shift headquarters to the national capital. “Why do all headquarters have to be in Delhi? AWBI office will remain in Chennai. We will raise the issue in the Parliament and also write a letter to the Environment Minister. We are going to fight against this,” he had told TNM.
Thursday’s announcement comes a week after the closure of the central government’s printing press in Coimbatore. The printing press was shut down and the employees were all asked to move to Nashik. Many had condemned this apparent ‘development of the north at the cost of the south’. Reports suggest that plans are on to sell the government properties to private companies in Coimbatore.