Agriculture Minister Balasaheb Thorat, under fire from wildlife conservationists for entering a tiger’s enclosure at Maharajbagh Zoo in Nagpur on Saturday, has claimed he has done no wrong. Pradip Kumar Maitra spoke to him about the controversy. Excerpts:
Why did you enter the tiger’s cage? Don’t you think it was against the law?
I went there to discuss a proposed development plan for the Maharajbagh zoo that has been sent to the Central Zoo Authority. During an interaction with the agriculture college officials, the zoo authorities invited me to take a look at the zoo. And one of the zoo-keepers requested me to enter the cage. So I went there to see how the authorities were taking care of animals.
But your entry into the cage is a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act.
I don’t think I did anything wrong. My intention was good, neither did I tease the animal nor disturb the tiger cub.
How can you say I violated the Act?
Why did you take politicians and your gunman into the enclosure?
It was Independence Day, and I was in Nagpur for official functions. The Nagpur district Congress chief Jaiprakash Gupta was with me since morning, and he accompanied me to Maharajbagh. It is not right that my gunman entered the enclosure.
Animal rights activists are demanding that you should be booked under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The issue is being blown up out of proportion. I am also a nature lover, I did nothing wrong when I went into the enclosure.
Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has said you violated the Act, and the Central Zoo Authority has initiated steps to probe the matter.
I don’t know about Rameshji’s comments. I am innocent; I did nothing unlawful. If I get any queries from CZA, I will reply accordingly.