Amidst the controversy of transporting four elephants from Assam to Gujarat, animal rights activists have started raising serious questions about the well-being of the pachyderms in transit.
Braving the heat of North India, Assam Forest Department granted permission to transport four elephants from Tinsukia in Upper Assam to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad.
The responsibility to transport the four elephants to Ahmedabad has now been given to the Northeast Frontier Railway.
But, there seems to be a total gray area about the responsibility of the well-being of the four elephants while in transit.
The 3,100 km long journey from Tinsukia to Ahmedabad may be highly risky for the four elephants, the animal rights activists maintained.
“Who is going to be responsible if one of the elephants die during the course of the journey?” one animal rights activist, who refused to be quoted, said.
Is it the responsibility of the elephant owners or the Jagannath Temple to ensure the safety of the elephants while in transit?
Or, is the Assam Forest Department or the Gujarat Forest Department ready to own up the responsibility in case of death of the elephants in transit?
Can the veterinarians accompanying the elephants guarantee that all the four elephants are going to reach Ahmedabad in perfect health conditions?
And, is the NF Railway skilled to transport elephants? Will the Divisional Railway Manager of Tinsukia give any kind of undertaking on the perfect delivery of the four elephants in Ahmedabad?
According to reports, the NF Railway has no specially-designed air-conditioned coaches to transport elephants. The animals are likely to be sent on semi-open railway wagons.
The journey is going to be perilous for the elephants, firstly because they had no prior exposure to dry and hot weather of North India.
Secondly, the pachyderms may not be able to cope up with the speed of the long-distance trains.
To reduce the travel time, the Assam Forest Department officials are trying to connect the special coach of the elephants with a passenger train from Tinsukia.
The coach carrying the elephants is likely to be connected to the Avadh-Assam Express or the Brahmaputra Mail from Tinsukia.
All the trains navigate at an average speed of over 100 kms per hour after crossing Katihar Junction.
The railway authorities made it clear that average speed of the passenger trains cannot be reduced for transporting the elephants.
Thirdly, there is a fear that the panicky elephants may try to touch the live wires of the electric lines over the railway tracks with their trunk, and may get electrocuted.
Fourthly, the veterinary doctors and attendants may not find enough time during the transit to attend to the elephants.
As halting time of the passenger trains ranges from two to three minutes in the stations, the train may start leaving the stations by the time they reach the special coach of the elephants.