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The forest department’s strict guidelines put the organizers of the Thrissur pooram in a difficult situation

The Forest Department’s circular put the world-famous event’s organizers in a bind just before the Pooram festivities got underway on Saturday with the raising of festival flags.

The principal chief forest conservator and chief wildlife warden, D Jayaprasad, issued a circular on April 11 instructing the Pooram organizers not to allow percussion ensembles, pyrotechnics, or pole-mounted fires (Theevetti) within 50 meters of the elephants during the procession. The circular also forbade unapproved elephant squad members from using capture belts and iron ankush.

The circular also specifies that elephants should be examined by a team of veterinary doctors approximately 12 hours prior to the parade, that water and juicy fruits like watermelon be provided for the elephants during the parade, that the elephants, mahouts, and crowd—if more than five elephants are paraded—be insured, and that there should be a 3 meter space between each elephant during the parade.

The Elephant Owners’ Federation has responded sharply to the circular. If the forest department does not revoke the circular that places severe limitations on elephant parades during festivals, they have threatened to stop providing elephants for the impoverished.

“If percussion is allowed only 50 m away from the elephant parade, it will create a situation where the elephants will be standing in Thekkinkadu Maidan while the percussionists will have to perform from Swaraj Round,” said Gireeshkumar of Thiruvambady devaswom. With such directives, how are we supposed to organize the festival? As the festival’s organizers, we kindly ask anybody who gives such instructions to first visit the Thrissur Pooram location before giving such instructions.

The Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation further referred to the circular as ludicrous due to its unrealistic directions. According to K Mahesh of the Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation, “issuing such difficult-to-implement instructions can only be considered as an attempt to sabotage the festivals in Kerala, including Thrissur Pooram.”

If the circular is not removed, the federation said that elephants will not be available for the Thrissur Pooram ceremonies starting on April 16. We are here to welcome the pooram of the year, the culmination of months of arduous struggle. However, the current actions of the forest department are depressing us. Isn’t the government meant to support us in putting on this event, which stands for interfaith harmony? questioned a festival goer.

Ministers confer and decide to revoke the order.

Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan and Revenue Minister K Rajan met with Forest Minister A K Saseendran amid the ongoing uncertainty. After the discussions, the decision was made to revoke the directive. According to the sources, an official order could not be issued on Saturday as it was a public holiday.

A High Court ruling dated April 12 mandates that the government organize festivals, such as Thrissur Pooram, in accordance with the guidelines in the CCF directive. Additionally, the court directed the organizers of Thrissur Pooram to provide the fitness certificate for each elephant that would be paraded during the festival by April 16 at the latest. “We’re not sure what we’ll do about the direction since it’s just unrealistic. Two teams of twenty-five professionals, including police, veterinary, and forest officials, inspect the elephants before they are paraded just during Thrissur Pooram. No other event has such extensive plans that prioritize public safety, according to Paramekkavu Devaswom secretary Rajesh G.

 

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