The iconic Victorias — horse-drawn carriages — found on south Mumbai’s Marine Drive need to go, the animal welfare board told the state government on Friday. Reason: The cruel treatment meted out to the horses.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has submitted a report to the chief secretary of Maharashtra on the cruel way in which the horses are made to haul carriages and advised it to immediately phase the carriages out by rehabilitating its operators.
The Bombay high court had directed the Maharashtra government to submit the plan for rehabilitation of 130 Victoria operators by October 24. Following this, the home department had prepared a plan to issue hawker licences to the operators for their rehabilitation, but when the proposal came before the cabinet, many ministers objected to phasing out the Victorias.
Many of them opined the government should not pay heed to the orders because they were overlapping the government’s jurisdiction.
“Tomorrow, we will be told to ban use of bulls for traditional ploughing. Some of us also said the Victorias in the city were a key tourist attraction in south Mumbai and they should be allowed to continue,” a minister told HT.
Failing to gather consensus, the cabinet then decided to appoint a cabinet sub-committee under finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to deliberate on the issue.
The AWBI, statutory body appointed under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, submitted its report on November 24 to the government, reiterating the cruelty caused to the horses in this trade. The report has the case studies conducted by a team of officials along with police officers and representatives of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in July this year. The report stated the horses were in a very poor condition, and had protruding rib cages and pelvic bones, swollen joints and anaemia.
“We have already stated, through a letter dated July 2013, that nature has equipped horses to work only on grass or soft ground and that forcing them to work on tar roads is inherently cruel.... We advise you to issue directions to relevant departments to act accordingly and immediately,” the letter states.
Dr Manilal Valliyate, director of Veterinary Affairs, PETA India, said, “We, too, have approached authorities from the government urging them to submit a rehabilitation plan for horse-carriage owners, drivers. As the government drags its heels on submitting the rehabilitation plan, it is not only failing in its duty to protest the horses, but it is also putting the public at risk of traffic accidents. We will take appropriate legal remedies if the cabinet sub-committee fails to meet its objectives.”
According to an official from the home department, the cabinet sub committee is expected to draw up a plan, which will protect the animals and at the same time allow Victorias to ply to maintain the tourist appeal of Marine Drive and Chowpatty.