Babulal the elephant
Babulal, one of the elephants that the forest department of Assam planned to send to Ahmedabad. Image credit - Northeast Now

Railway officials at Divisional Railway Manager’s office in Tinsukia were busy on Tuesday trying to arrange a special coach for transportation of four elephants to Ahmedabad.

Ignoring the heat of North India, the Assam Forest Department has granted permission for transportation of four elephants to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad.

The railway officials are now taking into account the minute details of the modalities for transportation of the elephants. After all, the elephants will traverse a distance of 3,100 kms from Tinsukia to Ahmedanad.

The four elephants from Assam are being sent to Ahmedabad ahead of the Rath Yatra scheduled to be held on July 4 in Jagannath Temple.

Railway officials in Tinsukia told Northeast Now on Tuesday evening that they were on the job to locate the right kind of coach to be attached to a passenger train to transport the four elephants.

Also read: Braving heat, bending rules, 4 Assam elephants being sent to Ahmedabad

While the Assam forest officials are insisting on transporting of the pachyderms on a passenger train, the railway officials are worried that the animals may not be able to cope up with the speed of the fast moving trains.

There are possibilities of connecting the special coach transporting the elephants with three passenger trains from Tinsukia – Rajdhani Express, Brahmaputra Mail or the Avadh-Assam Express.

All the three trains run at a speed of around 100 kms per hour after crossing Katihar in Bihar.

Ranjan Kumar Das, Conservator of Forest of Upper Assam had told Northeast Now that they prefer to send the elephants by passenger train because in that case, it would take about four days to traverse the distance of 3,100 kms.

Das, who is looking after the entire process of transporting the elephants, said sending the elephants in a goods train would be a totally wrong decision because of the heat in North India as it is going to take a long time.

Meanwhile, wildlife activists in Assam are worried with the government’s decision to transport the four elephants to Ahmedabad amidst the heat in North India.

According to reports, two of the four elephants, which are being sent to Gujarat were not captive born, and were caught from the wild, and domesticated.

Micro-chips on the two elephants were implanted on June 15, and ownership certificates for the two elephants have also been issued specially to ease the process of transportation of the elephants to Ahmedabad.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 has very strict rules when it comes to capturing of wild animals, which it defines as hunting under Section 2(16) of the act. As a Schedule I animal, Section 9 of the act prohibits the capture of elephants from the wild.

Capturing of wild elephants is allowed in only very limited circumstances by Section 11 and 12 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It permits capture if the animal is a threat to human life or is disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery.

Capture of wild elephant is illegal. It is a non-compoundable offence punishable with three to seven years imprisonment, and a fine of not less than Rs 10,000.

The wildlife activists are of the opinion that if elephants are captured from the wild illegally, the state forest department does not have the power to regularize such illegality by micro-chipping them and issuing ownership certificates.

It is also being told that if the elephants are being transferred to Ahmedabad by way of lease for six months against any sum of money or other consideration, it would be in violation of Section 43 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

As per Section 43(1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, no person having in his control or possession a captive animal in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership, shall transfer such captive animal by any mode of consideration of commercial nature.

The wildlife activists are worried with the transportation of the four elephants because in the past, several elephants from Arunachal Pradesh and Assam were leased to temples in Kerala, Gujarat and other states. Unfortunately, none of the elephants returned to the original owners.

Surprisingly, PCCF (Wildlife) of Assam, Ranjana Gupta remained incommunicado even on Tuesday. Despite repeated attempts, she did not respond to calls on her official mobile phone.

Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: editor@nenow.in

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