Will Kerala's iconic Thrissur Pooram have to do away with elephants this year?

Will Kerala's iconic Thrissur Pooram have to do away with elephants this year?
Will Kerala's iconic Thrissur Pooram have to do away with elephants this year?
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“Between 2007 and 2010, 215 elephants were killed due to cruelty. Elephants are made to work for long hours without any food and water and it forces them to turn violent”.
A Public Interest Litigation filed by Bengaluru-based WildLife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre points out the cruelty towards elephants by parading them for temple festivals, especially in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The iconic Thrissur Pooram, Kerala’s largest temple festival, in which the elephant parade is one of the biggest attractions, now faces twin troubles.  
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant will hear the PIL which was filed late last year. On the other hand, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has said that the state is yet to get permission for parading elephants during Pooram scheduled to be held on April 29. 
In a letter to the Kerala Chief Minister on Wednesday, AWBI points out that the organisers of Pooram have not registered the elephants. The letter says that carrying people on their backs accounts to elephant rides, for which prior permission has to be attainted from the board. The board emphasises an earlier Kerala High Court order in December 2014 in this regard.
Ramachandran Pisharody, Secretary of Paramekkavu Devaswom has dismissed all the allegations and says that Pooram, has been conducted for several
years now and that nothing can affect it in the future.
Image from Thrissur Pooram Facebook page
According to the Performing Animal’s Registration Rule 2001, the animals used in parades should be registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India, Chennai. The rule also says that such practices cannot be justified as being part of tradition.
“It is part of our culture and those who have personal and not public interest in mind will try to sabotage it”, said Professor Madhavankutty, President of Thiruvambady Devaswom. 
“Our recommendations towards ensuring the safety of animals have fallen on deaf ears, prompting us to file a PIL in the Supreme Court. The PIL is not against a specified party, but against cruelty towards animals in general”, said Suparna B Ganguly, President of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Bengaluru.
She says the PIL helps bring to light malpractices towards animals, which are otherwise not known to people. “If it is happening in one State, then it is sure to happen in every other State”, Ganguly said.
She added that the public display of animals is in no way justified and that long parades put the elephants under pressure. The loud fire crackers disturbs the elephants and often culminates in the killing of the mahouts or riders, leaving their families deprived. 
“Parading animals accounts to animal sacrifice in a lot ways which is illegal in our country”, she said.  
Image courtesy- Ajesh KV photography
Professor Madhavankutty says, “There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding parading elephants in temple festivals. A lot of people are not aware of the measures undertaken to protect the elephants, or that measures are there in place at all. However, there are instances of mistreatment of elephants, most often by individual owners. Such PILs surface based on generalisations.”
He says measures are taken to safeguard the elephants paraded for Thrissur Pooram. In fact, preparations have already begun for this year’s festival which will be held in Thrissur on April 29 and 30.
Professor Madhavankutty says,“When elephants need to stand for longer than twenty minutes, green shades are provided to protect them from the heat. Wet sacks are placed under their feet to keep their bodies cool, apart from the mandatory washes given before parading. Also, watermelon and cucumber are given to the elephants to relieve them from the scorching sun. The elephants are inspected and ensured they are healthy before parading them. A temporary platform is under construction at the ground where the elephants will be paraded, to make it easier for them to stand.”
In case the court issues a directive in this regard, Thiruvambadi, Parmekkavu and Cochin Devasoms along with the Elephant Owner’s Federation and Kerala State Festival Coordination Committee have decided to jointly file necessary explanation.
The organisers of Pooram seem confident that there will be no impediments, activists on the other side are preparing to notch up their fight.

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