6-year-old's death: BJP corporator lobbied for pony rides at Cooperage ground in Mumbai

Nov 13, 2017, 08:30 IST | Laxman Singh

In the aftermath of six-year-old's death after falling off a pony, it has emerged that corporator Makrand Narvekar forced BMC to renew licences, defying HC and state home department orders

Remember Janhavi Sharma, 6, a Girgaum resident who died after being thrown off a pony during a ride at Cooperage garden on November 5? Turns out she would have been alive had Colaba's BJP corporator Makrand Narvekar not got his way. After the state government banned horse rides on city's roads in 2015, following a court order, it was Narvekar who had written to the civic body on August 18 this year, pushing for the continuance of pony rides in the Churchgate garden, stating they had been operating there for 35 years.

A notice by the HC directing that horse rides at Cooperage garden be stopped. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
A notice by the HC directing that horse rides at Cooperage garden be stopped. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

The girl's death, due to severe head injuries after being thrown off the animal, had led to public outrage and questions being raised on why pony rides were still happening at the garden when the Bombay High Court had ordered a ban on all horse carriages in June 2015. Following the accident, the police had arrested horse rider Soham Jaiswal for negligence, and the BMC had stopped the rides and initiated an inquiry into the matter.

BMC officials say pony rides continued at Cooperage garden despite them sending letters to owners to stop the same

On August 18, Narvekar had written to the garden department, asking it to renew pony riders' licence to operate at Cooperage garden. The letter, a copy of which is with mid-day, states, "As discussed in our meeting held in 'A' ward along with deputy superintendent of garden on August 16, regarding the renewal or extension of pony riders' licences... you are requested to process the application... since this activity has been going on in Bandstand garden for over 35 years."

Exploiting legal loophole?
Documents show that after the HC order, following a petition by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), state home department had taken a meeting with BMC officials to implement the court's decision.

According to officials, on November 10, 2015, the state ordered a ban on all types of horse carriages, including pony rides. On January 8, 2016, the BMC issued a notice to all horse carriage owners to stop the running of Victorias. The same notice was sent to pony owners running rides at Cooperage garden.

Makrand Narvekar
Makrand Narvekar

Civic officials claimed that they had put up a board inside the garden informing about the ban on pony rides. A garden department official said, "We had put up a board but somebody removed it in a few days. Following the same order, we decided not to renew the licence of pony riders, given in 2014 till March 2016."

"However, early this year, the pony riders approached us to renew their licences. We refused, citing the court order. Then, local corporator Makrand Narvekar represented them and took a meeting of local ward and garden department officials. We told him about the court order, but he insisted that it did not ban pony rides, and hence, the civic body should renew their licences," added the official. On September 26, 2017, the garden department had sought legal advice on the issue, which is still awaited.

The other side
Narvekar said, "The high court order was for Victorias, not pony rides. Also, these rides have been going on there for decades. The BMC itself had made a track for the same. The activity is not wrong."

When asked about the state home department's decision of banning pony rides, he added, "I was not aware of that. But if that was the case, why had the BMC kept a board saying pony rides in the garden were on? It should have stopped the entry of horses in the garden and removed the board."

"I have written several letters to the BMC in the last four months to repair the crater that took the child's life, but they did not pay heed to it. If it was illegal, why didn't they take action? The civic body itself issued a notice to the contractor to continue the pony rides. Action should be taken against the officials concerned," Narvekar said.

"I have told BMC officials to take legal opinion on whether pony rides are covered in the court order or not. If yes, then stop the activity, but if not, then renew the licences."


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Ban timeline

June 2015: High Court asks BMC to ban the Victorias.

November 10, 2015: State home department issues a ban on pony rides.

January 8, 2016: BMC sends letters to owners of Victorias and ponies to stop the rides.

August 16, 2017: Local corporator Makrand Narvekar calls for a meeting in A ward with ward and garden department officials to allow pony rides.

September 26, 2017: BMC writes to its legal department to check if they can take licence fees of horse owners for rides inside the garden.

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