Caparisoned in rich bridal attire, silver bracelets jingling, noses haughtily in the air, the camels of the Border Security Force's elite Camel Contingent bounce jauntily in time to the beat of the marching band.
As they're put through their drill, they fan out gracefully into criss-cross formations, or lie docilely on their sides while soldiers perform yogasanas and PT exercises on them.
While this 100-strong contingent is integral to the pomp and pageantry at the Republic Day parade in Delhi, 700 other BSF camels toil quietly in remote outposts scattered along the 1,400-km-long border with Pakistan in Rajasthan and Gujarat, at Sriganganagar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bhuj. Here, their duties include checking infiltration of smugglers and insurgents, rescuing soldiers bitten by snakes and scorpions, and transporting mail, rations and men to remote, inaccessible areas through punishing desert weather: blinding sandstorms, blistering heat and bitter cold.
It's a long journey that transforms this seemingly ungainly ship of the desert into border vigilante and scene-stealer at the Republic Day parade. Five-year-old male camels are first carefully selected from fairs—chosen for healthy golden coats, good eyesight, and, most importantly, a proud demeanour. "A drooping head symbolises low morale, which is something we people in uniform don't appreciate!" says Kamal Singh Rathore, deputy commandant and instructor at the Jodhpur camel training centre.
At this centre and another one in Bikaner, the camels undergo rigorous training for up to a year. Regular grooming, brushing and feeding helps build a rapport between the camels and their trainers, essential for turning them into lean and tough warriors, a coiled spring at the ready. Slowly, the camels are coaxed into obeying commands, such as sit down (Jai, jai), get up (Uth, uth), and drink water (Prak, prak). Once these are mastered, the camels are taught more advanced "soldierly commands", such as buckling down and crawling on bended knees to duck gunfire. They also learn tactical moves—in the case of a surprise ambush, for example, they're trained to lope along nonchalantly, while the jawans riding them shield themselves by clinging to their side.
Working with camels is particularly demanding, say the BSF men. For one, camels have a very short memory, and hundreds of hours of training will be completely undone if they're left idle for two days. And then, they're notoriously moody. The trainers keep a sharp eye on the camels' body language—a camel that suddenly tilts its neck to one side, for instance, means that it's in a temper and about to lunge forth and bite you. Winter, the camel's rutting period, poses even more problems, as Rathore observes: "They growl, foam at the mouth, refuse to obey commands, and get very aggressive when they smell a female camel around!" During this time, rope muzzles are used to keep frustrated, amorous camels from furiously chomping on BSF jawans. The muzzles also serve to protect the beasts from themselves: during the mating season, male camels let a livid, hollow sac burble out of the side of their mouth to display dominance, and this sometimes gets stuck in their giant yellow teeth with the most painful consequences.
It's these muzzled, petulant sentinels that pace the 10-km stretch of Dhanasar Forward, a remote border observation post 100 km from Jaisalmer, an arid terrain of undulating sand dunes which sustains nothing but sevan grass, and few ker and babul trees. Just 150 yards away is a line of white pillars, marking the international border. Here, three times a day, the BSF camels patrol the sandy track bordering a barbed wire fence, while their riders check for footprints. Four kilometres away, camel-mounted Pakistani troops are doing much the same thing at their border posts of Bhuri Bhit and Silvari Bhit.
The footprint-checking usually yields nothing more exciting than pawprints of foxes and dogs, but with vivid memories of skirmishes in 1971 and 1965, a 24-hour vigil is nevertheless maintained. As darkness falls on the desert, powerful floodlights illuminate the fencing track through the night, while from isolated machans scattered across the dunes, jawans keep watch on the goings-on across the border.
At the camel stables a little distance away, Dhanasar camp commandant and Rajasthan native Rameshwar Lal Bishnoi points out the three distinctive breeds that the Camel Corps are composed of: "The Jaisalmeri has thick thighs, the Bikaneri runs fast, and the Nachna is the pedigreed variety, which you can tell apart from the haughty way it holds its head up high."
Haughty as well as high-maintenance, all camels serving their 15-year tenure with the BSF daily enjoy a lavish diet of 10 kg of fodder, composed of gowar and ber leaves, as well as channa, wheat and mustard stalks. This is topped up with fortified laddoo, providing each camel a carefully worked-out nutrition of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins. Overworked or angry camels are plied with treats of gur to coax them back into good humour. "Khao, Pintu, khao," a jawan placates his sulking camel in cooing tones. Such affectionate nicknames are, however, reserved for private moments—while on parade or on patrol duty, soldierly discipline is maintained and the camels are called only by their official names. Pintu, for example, is "R-41".
Though unadorned while going about their quotidian tasks, the camels sport lavish uniforms for the BSF's ceremonial occasions. Like cross-dressing queens at carnivals, they're both fearsome and resplendent in their beaded necklaces, exquisite silver knee-bracelets, intricately braided and bound up tails, and tasselled headdresses studded with mirror-work.
Bare or bejewelled, when it comes to their utility in the harsh desert terrain, Rathore thinks four long legs will never be surpassed by four-wheeled suvs: "Camels are cheaper, they cost only Rs 90 a day, and they're eco-friendly—no polluting fumes, no punctures or breakdowns, no spare parts required!"
* The 800-strong contingent of BSF camels which patrols the 1,400 km Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan and Gujarat is trained to dodge bullets, transport rations, carry light artillery, rescue wounded men
* Camel-training is tough; the animals are very moody, have short memories, and quickly forget their training unless it's constantly reinforced, then why camel abuse during shifting in cruel manner?
* BSF camels retire after 15 years service, and are sold at auctions.
* The BSF has three breeds of camels-the racing Bikaneri, the tough Jaisalmeri, and the graceful, pedigreed Nachna, which is great for ceremonial occasions. Camels of BSF are shifted in a very cruel manner, tied and over crowded siting position from Jodhpur to Delhi in a ordinary trucks, camels are traveling under very heavy stress, pain, thrust and injury to take part in the Republic day of India. OIPA in India team shocked to see truck No. RJ 19 G 8544 and 8191 along with one more truck today on 28-10-2010 on Jaipur Delhi NH. Local Gurgaon Police, Khedki Daula was called for legal action for the violation of section 3, 11, 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Cattle transport rule, 1978 amended in 2001 but local Police failed to stop animal abuse, officials traveled along with these vehicles were fully toon, under effect of liquor and their behave was unsocial, uncivilized as well.
3. Duties of persons having charge of animals : It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.
11. Treating animals cruelly : (1) If any person
(a) beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated;
(d) conveys or carries, whether in or upon any vehicle or not, any animal in such a manner or position as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering;
(e) keeps or confines any animal in any -cage or other receptacle which does not measure sufficiently in height, length and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for movement; or
f) keeps for an unreasonable time any animal chained or tethered upon an unreasonably short or unreasonably heavy chain or cord;
(k) offers for sale or without reasonable cause, has in his possession any animal which is suffering pain by reason of mutilation, starvation, thirst, overcrowding or other ill treatment;
38. Power to make rules : (1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette and subject to the condition of previous publication, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.
S.O.269 (E) - Whereas certain draft rules further to amend the Transport of Animals Rules, 1978 were published as required by sub-section (1) of section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960) under the notification of the Government of India in the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment number S.O. 1164 (E) dated 26th December 2000 in the Gazette of India. Extraordinary, Part 11, Section 3. Sub Section (ii) dated the 27th December, 2000 inviting objections and suggestions from all persons likely to be affected thereby, before the expiry of the period of sixty days from the date on which copies of the Gazette containing the said notification are made available to the public
96. Issue of certificate before transportation -
(1) A valid certificate issued by an officer or any person or Animal Welfare Organisation duly recognised and authorised for this purpose by the Animal Welfare Board of India or the Central Government shall be procured by any person making transport of any animal before transportation of such animal verifying that all the relevant Central and State Acts, rules and orders pertaining to the said animals including the rules relating to transport of such animals have been duly complied with and that the animal is not being transported for any purpose contrary to the provision of any law.
(2) In the absence of such certificate, the carrier shall refuse to accept the consignment for transport.
S.O. 267 (E). - Whereas the draft Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2000 were published, as required by sub-section (1) of section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960), under the notification of the Government of India in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment number S.O. 1162 (E) dated the 26th December 2000 in the Gazette of India. Extraordinary, Part 11, Section 3, Sub Section (ii) dated the 27 th December, 2000 inviting objections and suggestions from all persons likely to be affected thereby, before the expiry of the period of sixty days from the date on which copies of the Gazette containing the said notification are made available to the public;
(h) "performing animal" means an animal which is used at or for the purpose of any entertainment including a film or an equine event to which the public are admitted
Hence you all are humbly requested to stop camel abuse at once and strict legal, departmental action may kindly be taken against all offenders, including Police officials of Khedki Daula Police Post / SHO as well, who failed to perform their official duty and all three vehicles - trucks were allowed to move for BSF, Chavla camp in Delhi because Indian representative of the International Organisation for Animal Protection - OIPA in India called Gurgaon Police at toll tax barrier / handed over to them all three trucks for legal actions and then informed Delhi Police helpline 100 vide recks 15-35 hours on 28-10-2010, it is presumed that this kind of camel abuse again will be repeated after Republic day parade and many more camels yet to be shifted from Jodhpur to Delhi in a similar cruel manner.
We further appeal to the Govt. to amend the concerned legislation for animals and delegate Police power / authority to Naresh Kadian as per provisions under law of the land to protect animals from unnecessary pain and sufferings.
OIPA, International Organization for Animal Protection, is an International Confederation of associations for the animal protection and for the defence of animal rights all over the world.
OIPA is a Non Governmental Organization affiliated to the UN Department of Public Information since 1992 ready to provide training on animal related laws to all officials of any enforcement agencies in India. On 29th October, 2010 IG of BSF Shri A. K. Sarolia, IPS agreed to be more sensitive and kind towards Camels, Where as Commandant Shri Sardari Lal tried to justify camel transportation and Animal Welfare Board of India failed to issue notice to BSF, why?, where as AWBI have right to issue pre transport permit as per section 96 of the Cattle transport rule, 1978 amended in 2001. It is presumed that IPS officers might be knowing all legal provisions for animal rights and their welfare.
The International Organisation for Animal Protection - OIPA in India issued RTI petition through its Indian representative Naresh Kadian as under :
It is confirmed that BSF shifting camels from Jodhpur to Delhi in ordinary trucks and these camels are traveling under very heavy stress, pain and injury since long to take part in Republic day parade every year, hence following information required under RT| Act, 2005 :
1. Do you know that shifting camels in such way is a crime as per section 3, 11 and 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960?
2. Cruel camel transportation like this in ordinary trucks are being taken place since long by the BSF, May I know that how many camels BSF have shifted till date from beginning and how many trucks used to do so along with amounts incurred on it?
3. How many camels are loaded in each trucks and who gave permission to do so?
3. Do you feel that camels feel comfortable during their shifting like this in tied position for long time journey?
4. BSF officials could take food, water and rest during their journey from Jodhpur to Delhi and back in same way but camels were not offered to do so, Why and who is responsible for it?
5. Do you know that pre transport permit is required from the Animal Welfare Board of India as per section 96 of the Cattle transport rule. 1978 amended in 2001, have BSF obtained required permit from AWBI, if yes then supply the copy of the same, if no then Why?
6. The Commissioner of Delhi Police along with DGP of Rajasthan and Haryana Police are requested to direct all concerned SHO's to lodge an FIR against offenders because this is an criminal conspiracy against camels 120-B, 3, 11 and 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
7. Is there any breeding centers for camels with in BSF and all performing camels are registered with AWBI or not?. Is it true that camels are being auctioned by the BSF, when animal became useless to them?
As many as 40 camels are yet to be shifted from Bikaner to Delhi in coming days.
60 camels are being shifted as per details given below :
On 26-10- 2010: 18 camels in 6 private vehicles, 28-10-2010: 24 camels, 30-10-2010: 18 camels.
Traveling period from Jodhpur to Delhi is 18-24 hours and no water, food and rest for them, neck and foot both were tied with ropes during shifting, animal back kept towards truck engine side, how cruel it is?, these camels will go back during February, 2011. Border patrolling is justified but it is not fair and justified and why camels are the part of a parade, BSF such a big organization can keep required numbers of animals here in Delhi itself, to avoid camel abuse during shifting in trucks.
SHO, Chhawala, Delhi - 110071 is here by requested to lodge an FIR against Commandant of 25th Battalion BSF at Chhawala along with others for the violation of section 3, 11 and 38 of PCA Act, 1960 read with 120-B IPC and DP Act, 1978.
The required fee will be deposited cash in your office on working day.
Representative of the International Organization for Animal Protection
- OIPA in India,
C-38, Rose Apartment, sector- 14, Prashant Vihar, Rohini, Delhi.
Registration no. DRGPO/E/2010/00044 On 29-10-2010,
CMO/PGC/2010/538456 and CMO/PGC/2010/538475
DARPG/E/2010/05454, Grievance has been registered vide Registration number PRSEC/E/2010/17119 dated 6-11-2010 and complaint against Commandant, 25th BN, BSF has been lodged vide DD No. 37-B with Police Station, Chhawala, Delhi - 110071 on 6-11-2010 by Naresh Kadyan, legal notice also dispatched for legal action against all offenders.
Smt. Maneka Gandhi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) is requested to place a bill on the floor of the House to include Camel and Elephant in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Transport of Animals on Foot) Rules, 2001 along with amendment in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, offenses under this Act shall be cognizable, non bailable as well, where as she failed to do anything.
Ld. Speaker, Rajasthan Assembly is here by humbly requested to place a bill to amend the present legislation and to introduce new strong rules, being an animal as a State subject declaring camel as state heritage animal of Rajasthan.
Ld. Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, New Delhi / Ld. The Chief Justice, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur Bench and Ld. The Chief Justice of Delhi High Court are requested to treat this mail as public interest litigation - PIL to protect the camels from unnecessary pain and sufferings, BSF may kindly be directed to stop 40 camels transportation in cruel manner in trucks from Bikaner to Delhi at once and 60 camels already reached in Delhi also be looked in to while sending them back to Jodhpur. It is further humbly submitted that appropriate orders may kindly be passed about the rehabilitation of all retiring camels, as per present practice useless / surplus camels are being auctioned and there may be a possibility - opportunity for butchers, It would be pertinent to mention here that the population of camels are decreasing day by day due to slaughtering. If BSF needs camels to be a part of their parade every year then permanent camel base camp in New Delhi should be introduced, otherwise no way to minimize animal abuse except camel traveling on foot from one place to another in a human way. - Naresh Kadian.
Many circuses have camels, AWBI registered them as performing animals with out knowing the facts and these camels are being badly abused by the so called circus owners during shifting from one place to another, hence we demands immediate cancellation of all camels registration, we further demands replacement of existing toothless legislation for animals PCA Act, 1960 with Animal Welfare Act, 2011 : No exemption, double standard amongst domestic, wild, marine, birds, exotic and force animals, National Research Centre on Camel, Bikaner be asked to introduce a mechanism to shift camels from one place to another either on foot or via any transport vehicle, prepare a guideline as well. It would also be pertinent to mention here that Motor Vehicle Act also defined ISI specified vehicles for animal shifting, hence BSF violated this legislation, while shifting camels to Delhi in goods transport trucks.