Yesterday, this paper carried a report about how a reader called Darshan Dhooke had witnessed a mahout forcing an elephant to beg on the roads of Dahisar recently. This, despite the Forest Department issuing prohibitory orders keeping elephants away from city limits.
It is important that these animals, seen sporadically on city roads despite bans, be kept away. They are a danger to people given the crush of traffic in Mumbai. Frightened by the noise and traffic, elephants can go berserk, trampling pedestrians or even causing severe injuries to motorists.
It does not need too much imagination to think what would happen if a frightened or startled elephant ran amok on the Mumbai streets and what havoc it would cause. Years ago, readers will remember that a man, who had been teasing an elephant by offering it stones, was lifted off the ground by the elephant and trampled to death.
Often, we see mahouts take advantage of gullible people by making the elephant out to be a holy animal. With elephants standing on the crowded pavements, they touch the animal with reverence and even try to tap the trunk in a show of getting its blessings.
The report stated that authorities and organisations in charge of animal rights, condemned the fact that an elephant was allowed to walk on the city’s roads. Yet, their concern should not stop at mere condemnation.
The common man or layperson has to be aware of what he or she can do in case an elephant is spotted on the road. Is there a number they could call? Are civic authorities responsible? Can they call the traffic police? Sometimes, there are good intentions but people are clueless about how to channelise this. There has to be clarity about the way forward.
Lastly, one must remember that this is cruelty to the elephant, who may be petrified at being taken out of its familiar environment and onto the chaotic Mumbai roads, with its constant noise and traffic snarls. While the cruelty may not be obvious, the pachyderm is sure to be scared to death, not quite knowing what to make of all its turbulent urban surroundings.
We see horses in a similar predicament on our roads, and bears and monkeys are also made to perform tricks on the road.
Let us stop this danger to people and this cruelty to beasts.