Traffic police too want Victorias to go

Published: 17 December, 2013 06:50 IST | A Correspondent |

Soon, you may not be able to experience a horse-drawn carriage ride. The Mumbai traffic police has lent its support to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGOs, which demanded a ban on the carriages known as Victorias

People for Animals, an NGO that works for animal welfare, had filed the PIL in August 2011. In it, it had asked the court to disallow the vehicles, as it amounted to cruelty to animals. On December 13 this year, Niranjan Pundit, government pleader appearing on behalf of Traffic Branch, Mumbai informed the court that the traffic department proposed not to renew licences of the Victorias in view of growing traffic problems and in the larger public interest.

Mumbai police has planned not to renew licences for the Victoria carriages. File pic

Pundit also told the court that an affidavit to this effect would be filed accordingly. However, since they were no longer used as conveyance and were only meant for joyrides, the police see no reason to renew the permits. Also, traffic has increased 203 per cent between 1991 and 2013 and it was risky both for horses and people to allow plying these carriages in a crowded urban environment.

There are also chances that the beasts can go berserk on the noisy roads. The affidavit, which has been drafted and will soon be filed, mentions these issues. Ambika Hiranandani, lawyer and activist, People for Animals, applauded the development, “This move by the Traffic Branch is welcome.

They have raised valid points. We have seen so many accident cases since we filed the PIL, from the death of Sultan to numerous calls we get on a daily basis detailing all sorts of accidents. Can you imagine the pain and suffering of an animal that is hauling a heavy carriage alongside buses and cars in huge traffic jams? It cannot go as fast as the motor vehicles, and it has to work for 12-14 hours a day.”

The PIL filed by the NGO stated that it was cruel to make the animals run on tar and concrete roads, as it caused them physical harm, and also cited expert opinion. In the past, the NGO has acquired various notes from veterinarians that explain the various problems horses face.

On its request, the National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE), a research centre on horses, had even carried out a study. Dr Vaibhav Zunjare, a veterinarian from NRCE, had put together a list of common diseases faced by horses and presented the same to PFA. The list included rain rot, hoof abscess, bruised sole, and white line disease among others.

Maneka Gandhi says
“Most work horses suffer from diseases like lameness, colic, wounds and respiratory problems. Their owners lack knowledge, funds or the sensitivity to deal with their medical requirements. Many of these carriage horses are given steroids to make them bigger artificially. They promote rapid muscle growth. But this enhanced muscle growth can be too much for the weak skeletal structure that supports it.

The quality of food and water leads to malnutrition and weakened immunity, which in turn makes them vulnerable to diseases. There is no shelter in any city where a sick horse can be kept till he/she is well again. Horses are regularly hit by cars or buses. They die, and often the car and driver are hurt as well.” - Maneka Gandhi, former animal welfare minister and founder of PFA

Speeding rider leads to horse’s death
MiD DAY had reported in July last year on how a horse named Sultan was knocked down by a taxi and succumbed to its internal injuries. The incident occurred after its rider, Naresh Shetty, spurred the horse on and made it go too fast. The tonga jumped a signal near CST and was hit by an oncoming taxi. While Shetty was rushed to St George Hospital, Sultan suffered multiple injuries and died on the spot.

Did you know?
Horse carriages are licensed under the Bombay Public Conveyance Act, 1920
187: No of licensed Victoria horses in the city, according to the BMC 

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