A Kerala-based animal rights group has sought the immediate intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in stopping the alleged abuse of elephants during the ongoing centuries-old ‘Kalpathi Chariot festival’ in Palakkad district of the state.
In a recent letter to Modi, the outfit, Heritage Animal Task Force, alleged that the practice of using elephants to push the biggest chariot, weighing more than five tonnes, during the festival amounted to abuse of the heritage animal.
Popularly known as ‘Kalpathi Rathotsavam’, the event is held as part of the annual festival of the Viswanathaswamy Temple at Kalpathi village, a traditional Tamil Brahmin settlement in Palakkad district.
“The wooden base of the temple chariot has a weight of more than five tonnes. The upper portion of the chariot is made up of bamboo and paper flowers having a weight of more than one tonne,” Task Force Secretary V K Venkatachalam said today.
“As per provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and the Kerala Captive Elephant Management and Maintenance Rule 2003, it is unlawful to use any elephant to push or to pull anything having more than 1000 kg weight,” he said.
The PCA Act 1960 bans any person from using any animal for these types of activities, he said.
Detailing sufferings of elephants, he said when a jumbo is forced to push such a massive object, the mahout sitting atop of the animal will have to thrust it painfully to bend its front legs and to push the chariot using its forehead.
“This type of performance by an elephant will cause tremendous stress on its sensitive parts including its front and back legs, neck and forehead. The strenuous work will also cause suffocation and other types of painful pressures in several internal and exernal parts of its body,” he said.
Moreover the Supreme Court had issued strict orders to the Kerala Government this August not to use any elephant as part of any festival which would violate provisions of these Acts, he said.
The apex court order had also empowered the District Collector to set up a district committee for purpose of ensuring prevention of cruelty to elephants as part of the festivals. But the Palakkad district administration has not convened any such committee meeting, he alleged.
The animal activist, in his letter, expressed hope that the PMO would issue strict orders to conduct a high-level inquiry into this type of “organized crime” against captive elephants and take action against those who were party to hire elephants for purpose of “unlawful” chariot pushing. The three-day festival began at Kalpathi yesterday.