Minister Maneka Gandhi should apologise for maligning Kerala state.
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The Facebook page of project elephant, an organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forest has shared a post by a Canadian journalist who made a documentary as a part of Atrocity literature against Hindu temple practices in Kerala. The said post was a news carried by NDTV, in which the Minister for Women and Children Department, Maneka Gandhi passed some loose comments about the state of Kerala, with too many factual errors. Let me quote the comment here.
"Over 800 elephants have died in the last two years of beating and starvation in Kerala. To say that elephant is thriving in India, it is not. There are less than 20,000 left, of which Kerala is killing as many as it possibly can. Begging elephants must get off the road. We must have elephant rescue centers. The Kerala Government has to take a decision now -- to keep killing these endangered species or take action to rescue them."
Anyone with even a minimum knowledge of the ground situation would know that the Minister’s statement is a bundle of blunders, wrong on facts and logic. Kerala has centuries-old elephant rearing practices, and the man-animal love has been captured both on-screen and off it. It is obvious that the Minister’s statement that 800 elephants died in the last two years due to beating and starvation is with reference to captive elephants. But ironically, the total number of captive elephants in Kerala two years ago in 2014 was estimated to be not more than 600. If 800 elephants had lost their lives during this period as claimed, then Kerala must be having a negative number of the animals by now. The reality, however, is different. Assuming that the Minister's statement that ``begging elephants must get off the road’’ was made in the Kerala context, it also needs to be pointed out such practice is unheard of in Kerala. Project Elephant, which shared the news of the Minister's statement, must have acted more transparently and responsibly and should have informed the Minister of the exact numbers instead of going by statistics doled out by an NGO, which allegedly has a vested interest. Suffice to say, the sequence of events reveal utter irresponsibility on the part of the government officials including the Minister and the continued influence of the NGO ecosystem on the decision-making process.
The outrageous claims made by the NGO and endorsed by government officials is no less than an insult to Kerala and its people for whom the animals have been an integral part of their culture. That is not to claim there are no wrongs. Increasing commercialisation of the society has had its impact on the value system too, and there is exploitation happening at every level. Kerala, which has one of the largest meat industries, where lakhs of chickens and thousands of buffalo's and cows are culled every year devoid of every basic animal right, is no exception. But instead of fixing the faults, the attempt seems to be to wipe off the last remnants of a vibrant culture which taught humans to live in harmony with nature and to see the spark of divinity in every living being. Even Ayurveda in Kerala has a branch dedicated to the well-being of elephants. A majority of captive elephants are periodically subjected to such wellness treatments as prescribed by the ancient texts. Such best practises would not have evolved but for a deep involvement shown by the Kerala society for the well-being of these pachyderms whom it considers divine.
The Minister owes Kerala an apology for her disgraceful claims. I would also request the Honourable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi to depute officials to conduct an independent study into the elephant management practices in Kerala so as to prevent vested interests from parading self-serving fiction, half-truths and outright lies as the truth. The developments are also an eye-opener that despite the crackdown on NGOs, the ecosystem still survives and continues to exert its malicious influence on the decision-making process of the sovereign state. The Government must look into this and come out with initiatives to thwart such pernicious attempts.
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