In an attempt to ease the woes faced by elephants and their owners in Jaipur owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday announced a relief package of Rs 4.2 crore for them.
“An amount of Rs 4.2 crore will be distributed to the caretakers of elephants (mahouts) and their families, responsible for their upkeep. The relief is for the elephant and mahouts living in Jaipur's Haathi Gaon (Elephant village). The money has been issued from the CM Relief Fund and aims to improve the condition of elephants and their caretakers. The money will be distributed through the ‘Elephant welfare fund’. Under this relief, around 95 elephants living in the elephant village will be covered. The relief amount will be distributed to each family for the last 10 months (March 17, 2020 - December 31, 2020),” said a press note released by the Chief Minister's Office on Wednesday.
The elephant owners and caretakers had been complaining of a crippling effect on their lives due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Elephant rides at the Amber Fort and weddings, which used to be their primary source of earnings, had come to a halt ever since the lockdown began in March 2020. Since then it has been a struggle for families to earn their bread and butter as well as feed an elephant properly, which costs around Rs 2,500 per day.
Outlook had reported on June 2, 2020, on the issues of the Jaipur's elephants and the caretakers.
Also read: Of Tuskers And Mahouts: The Elephantine Issues Of Jaipur's Elephant Village
However, after the persistent demands by the affected families, the Opposition BJP, as well as the media reports, the elephant rides around Amber Fort that was prohibited due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, since March 18, 2020, were resumed on November 24, 2020. As per the new guidelines of the tourism department, it is mandatory for mahouts and tourists to wear face masks. Also, thermal screening is a must before the ride. Moreover, the tourists and mahouts have to sanitise their hands before and after the ride.
Jaipur had a total number of 103 elephants, however, the number of elephants in Jaipur has now come down to 99 within six months of the Covid-19 outbreak. Four elephants have died in Jaipur's Amber. Once used for ferrying tourists through the steep climb of the historic Amber Fort, when these tuskers died, the movement of these animals was restricted to their enclosures.
Also read Rampant Elephant Deaths In Jaipur; Owners Say Inactivity Due To Covid-19 Could Be Reason
Outlook had reported on September 11, 2020, on the rampant elephant deaths in Jaipur.
Owners of the elephants said in the past six months, the frequency of elephant deaths has been abnormally high. The apprehensive elephant owners and caretakers (mahauts) cite “no tourism activity” as the major reason behind their death.
Elephants also have historical importance in the state. Sawai Jai Singh, the former Maharaja of Jaipur, himself devoted time to the care of elephants and patronized the mahouts. Jaipur’s walled city has a locality called Pheel Khana, which is dedicated to mahouts. Because of history, the elephants became important elements of the state’s culture and subsequently tourism.