A conciliatory meeting called by the government here on Thursday to sort out the grievances of elephant owners against the background of the Thrissur Pooram remained inconclusive, though the participants remained confident that the festival will be held without any hiccup.
The outcome now hinges on the discussions among the office-bearers of the Kerala Elephant Owners Federation in Thrissur on Friday. The government is expected to seek legal advice on the issue with the Kerala High Court hearing a plea on Friday.
The two-hour parleys that Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran and Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar had with a delegation of elephant owners, led by federation president K.B. Ganesh Kumar, MLA, centred on differences over rules concerning the management of captive elephants.
Mr. Surendran, who was confident that the Pooram will be held with pomp and splendour, said the elephant owners voiced their concerns regarding the difficulties they faced at the hands of the Forest Department.
“On his return from the Europe tour, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will convene a meeting of all stakeholders, including departments, elephant owners, workers, and festival coordination committees, to resolve the issues,” he said.
Mr. Sunil Kumar said the elephant owners responded positively to the government’s stance and was confident that they would refrain from boycotting the festival. He said the elephant Thechikkottukkavu Ramachandran would not be paraded at the festival under any circumstances. The temple committee had only sought permission to use the elephant during a ritual for a short while on the Pooram eve, he said.
The elephant owners criticised Forest Minister K. Raju for his Facebook post on the issue. “The Minister’s stance had only served to worsen the situation,” Mr. Ganesh Kumar said.
He said captive elephants being paraded at the festival were not considered money-spinners. Barring the Devaswoms, private individuals paraded their animals free of charge. In the case of Thechikkottakavu Ramachandran, which is owned by a Devaswom, it (Devaswon) incurred an annual expense of 35 lakh, he said.
Mr. Ganesh Kumar, a former Forests Minister, claimed that reports about the elephant’s ailments were exaggerated and that the animal was not violent as portrayed by certain sections.