The Union environment and forest ministry has found Maharashtra agriculture minister Balasaheb Thorat guilty of “molesting and teasing” a tiger when he entered a zoo cage and patted it in Nagpur last Saturday.
Shocked by the incident, the ministry had demanded a report from the zoo authorities as the minister had violated the law.
Thorat, along with local Congress leaders, had entered the cage which had three tiger cubs.
Even though the zoo officials were aware of the violation, they didn’t stop the minister from entering the cage, risking his life and harassing the animal.
The zoo authorities have decided to take departmental action against the zoo officials who participated in the violation. Senior ministry officials said the zoo authorities should not have encouraged the minister.
Ministry sources said Thorat was guilty of violating Section 38 (J) of the Indian Forest Act and he could be imprisoned for six months or fined Rs2,000, or both.
Only authorised and trained personnel can enter cages under controlled conditions.
Senior ministry officials said action against the minister could be a bit difficult as Maharashtra is gearing up for elections and action against Thorat could create problems for the ruling Congress party.
“What happened at the zoo was wrong and in complete violation of the law. Action will be taken,” Jairam Ramesh, minister for environment and forest, had told the national conference on environment and forest in the capital on Tuesday. He also said “The zoo director had not right to allow the minister to come and play with the tiger cub. I have no doubt that this is a violation of law. Definitely a violation of the code of conduct”
Senior Leader Digvijay Singh tried to protect Thorat by saying that “patting is not teasing”, but the question of why a person is allowed to enter the cage of the cub still remains. Is it because he is a minister? Why can’t every common citizen be allowed to take a photosession with the tigers then?
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