After the senior Congress leader, Digvijay Singh, now it is the turn of Opposition leader and the state BJP president, Nitin Gadkari, who has come openly to defend the Maharashtra Agriculture minister Balasaheb Thorat. The Maharashtra Minister was under attack after he was filmed stroking an eight-month old tiger cub at Maharajbagh zoo in Nagpur run by the Agriculture College as his armed security guards and the city Congress president Jaiprakash Gupta looked on.
According to Gadkari, the Guardian minister of Nagpur district, Thorat has every right to visit the zoo as he is also the pro-vice chancellor of the Punjabrao Agriculture University that runs the zoo. “Being the pro vice-chancellor of the university, he is like an official of the zoo and that’s why he inspected the state of affairs of the zoo and its animals by going there,” he pointed out.
He continued, “I don’t think he has committed any crime. I could not understand why it was made an issue?”
Earlier, while defending Thorat, the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Singh claimed that patting was not a violation of the existing rules of Wildlife Protection Act. During his Nagpur visit on Tuesday he also read out the provisions of the Act one by one and said that nowhere the Agriculture minister had violated the Act.
However, wildlife activists maintained that the rules allow only the curator to handle the animals. “How did the minister do it and for what? What was he trying to do?” asked Kishore Rithe, a well-known tiger conservationist and secretary of Satpuda Foundation, an NGO.
Meanwhile, the union minister of state for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh has ordered an inquiry into the matter. “We have asked the Central Zoo Authority to probe into the matter and submit the report within the next two days. And if the minister if found guilty, law will takes its course,” he said. The state forest department is also probing the matter.