The Forest Department (FD) has stepped up action against elephant mahout Shabhashankar Pandey for illegally making the animal beg and use it in processions. Pandey, who owns two elephants Lakshmi (45 years) and Rupa (30 years) - was given a licence to own the animals by the Deputy Forest Officer (DFO) in Bihar, his home state.
Elephant Lakshmi being used in a religious procession at Powai
MiD DAY had reported on two separate occasions that the elephant Lakshmi, which is 45 years old, was seen in the city despite there being a ban on the entry of the tusked animals in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. On one occasion, Lakshmi had been found soliciting alms at Dahisar ('Despite ban, elephant found begging near Dahisar station, January 7).
Later, Sunish Subramanian Kunju, an animal activist, was allegedly attacked by Pandey and his son when Kunju objected to the use of the elephant in a religious procession in Powai ('Activist attacked for objecting to use of elephant at religious event', January 15).
Officials had already warned the mahout regarding his treatment of the animals and their illegal use in his activities. The FD will now write a letter to the DFO, asking for Pandey’s licence to be cancelled. “We plan to dispatch the letter by January 27, so that necessary steps are taken and the owner is taught a lesson,” said K P Singh, chief conservator of forest, Thane.
This newspaper had further reported on how Pandey had ordered customised shoes for his elephant from a cobbler in Borivli ('Mahout gets Rs 40,000 shoes for elephant to wear in film shoots, January 23). Pandey had paid the amount for the specially made shoes, for which material was procured all over the city and state by the cobbler Asharam Waghmare.