Whenever there is a major disaster the focus is always on rescuing humans and no one spares a thought for animals who suffer in equal measure, with no hope of anyone coming to their aid. It is no surprise then, that the Government of Uttarakhand, which is busy dealing with the vast human tragedy that has unfolded across the hill State, has ignored the plight of 2,000 mules stranded in Gaurikund area.
However, the hero of the moment, i.e. the Indian Army, has come to the rescue of the hapless animals and decided to send a troop with animal welfare activists to rescue the abandoned mules.
The activists fear that the fast-rising water in an artificial lake created by the debris blocking the drainage beyond Gaurikund could drown the mules stranded in this area. A team comprising veterinarians and members of the People for Animals (PFA) and Humane Society International, will free the stranded animals from this area with the help of the Army.
PFA Uttarakhand member secretary Gauri Maulekhi said that the State Government, district administration and Animal Husbandry Department have turned a blind eye to the condition of these stranded animals. PFA chairperson Maneka Gandhi talked to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Command, Lt-Gen Anil Chait, who agreed to provide a troop to assist in the rescue of the stranded animals.
PFA volunteers and the Army embarked on the rescue on Tuesday morning from Sonprayag. The need for rescue has become all the more urgent as the mules are starving and it is feared that the level of water in the artificial lake forming beyond Gaurikund could cause a flash flood killing all the animals,” she said.
Maulekhi said that though the Nainital High Court had restricted the number of mules that could be used on the Gaurikund-Kedarnath route to 4,500 this year, the order was blatantly ignored. Local residents estimated that about 12,000 mules were present in the area when disaster struck.
While many of the injured mules have died and some uninjured mules were taken away by locals and visitors, 2,000 mules are still stranded on blocked stretches of the route.
“It is not possible to rescue and assemble the stranded mules in one place so we are planning to free them into the forests where we expect the locals will take them considering their value,” she said.
The Army also launched another initiative on Tuesday to provide help to ponies and mules stranded on the Hemkund axis. An Army helicopter flew one veterinary doctor and two paramedics to render medical aid to the animals affected by the floods and efforts were on to provide similar assistance to agencies responsible for taking care of animals in Gaurikund.
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