Less than a month after TNM reported that the Animal Welfare Board of India is to be shifted out of Chennai, the AWBI has officially announced the move to Faridabad in Haryana.
Drilling the final nail in the coffin, the AWBI said in a press release, “All the applications relating to Court cases, RTI, Grievances, Complaints, Grant proposals, HAWO applications, Colony Care Taker Application for Pre-shoot permission/ registration and No-objection certificate, events or display, Circus matters, Publications etc” were to be sent to the new address.
On January 18, 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.”
The new office will be at the eight-acre National Institute of Animal Welfare (NIAW) campus in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The national institute is tasked with fostering knowledge and training to personnel working with animals in various capacities.
AWBI had been operating from Chennai since its inception 56 years ago, with dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale, dancer donating the Valmiki Nagar building to the Board. Years later, the DMK government under M Karunanidhi allotted 1,400 sq m of land in Thiruvanmiyur to the Board in 1991.
Gupta had said that the move to Delhi was part of the “three-tier” system with a national board, state boards and district boards. “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 had said. However, TNM found no such rule in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It says that the headquarters should be in New Delhi, “or at such other place, after consultation with the Board” as the Centre directs.
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.
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.