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Sigh of relief for Assam elephants as govt suspends 1,900-mile train journey to Jagannath Yatra


Guwahati, June 28: The Assam government on Thursday stopped transportation of four elephants to Gujarat for the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad due to prevailing heat wave in North-West India.

The Gauhati High Court in a PIL had earlier this week asked the government to pass an appropriate order by Thursday considering the safety and security of the elephants.

Representational Image

"In terms of the orders of the Hon'ble Gauhati High Court ... and in view of the prevailing heat wave conditions in the North-West parts of India, the permission granted ... is hereby kept in abeyance," Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Ranjana Gupta said in the order.

Gupta, who is also the Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam, issued four different orders mentioning the names of each of the elephants, who were proposed to be transported from Tinsukia district in Upper Assam to Gujarat.

Earlier, an expert committee formed by the government comprising veterinarians suggested against transportation of the animals.

"The body temperature of elephants is 37 degree Celsius and their comfort zone is 25-26 degree Celsius. On the other hand, the present weather conditions through which the elephants are proposed to be transported is found to be very hot," the report of the experts said.

"Thus, there is every possibility of heat stroke of the elephants by any means of transport," it said, adding the average temperature of the proposed transportation region is hovering around 45 degree Celsius at present.

Earlier this week, Assam Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi had urged Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar to intervene and stop the proposed transportation of the elephants from the state for the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad.

"India is facing severe heatwave at the moment and roughly half the country is struggling through its worst drought in six decades. I am concerned over media reports that the Assam Government is transporting four elephant for the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad," he had added.

Gogoi had also pointed out that transportation of animals is always risk prone and many wildlife activists have opposed the decision of the state government.

Earlier, the Upper Assam Conservator of Forest Ranjan Kumar Das had said that the four elephants, including two females, would be transported to Ahmedabad by train and he was making the arrangements after being officially granted permission by the higher authorities.

Gujarat government had also issued the no-objection certificate.

The four elephants from Assam were proposed to be taken to Ahmedabad ahead of the Rath Yatra scheduled to be held on July 4 in Jagannath Temple and according to tradition, elephants have the first glimpse of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and lead the procession.

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