State Agriculture Minister Balasaheb Thorat, who entered the enclosure of a tiger at Maharajbagh Zoo in Nagpur on Saturday, seemed to be heading for more trouble.
Taking serious cognisance of the incident, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) on Monday sought an explanation from the zoo authorities.
In a letter sent to the zoo authorities, the central agency said the minister’s entry in the tiger’s cage was an
infringement of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Local opposition leaders, too, lapped up the opportunity to draw political mileage from the incident.
District Shiv Sena chief Shekhar Sawarbandhe lodged a complaint with the Sitabuldi police station against the minister on Monday.
If the police failed to book Thorat, the Shiv Sena and other opposition parties would launch an agitation against him, said Sawarbandhe. He also demanded that the minister be removed from the Cabinet immediately.
Kundan Hate, an environmentalist who was at the zoo when the minister visited it, alleged that the animal was terrorised by the minister and his associates.
The state Forest Department, too, has sought an immediate report from the Maharajbagh Zoo authorities.
“We have asked the zoo in-charge to submit a detailed report on the issue. After getting the report and recording the
statements of eyewitnesses, we will prepare a comprehensive report for the government,” said N. Rambabu, conservator of forests, Nagpur division.
Rambabu said if the minister would be booked if found guilty under Section of 38 (J) of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Meanwhile, Dr S.S. Bawaskar, the acting in-charge of Maharajbagh zoo, who accompanied the minister in the cage, justified
“Being the state’s agriculture minister, Thorat is the pro-chancellor of the Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth that runs the zoo. The minister has every right to visit the zoo and inspect the state of affairs of the zoo and its animals,” he said.