Mumbai: Animal rights activists are protesting the use of horses in waist-deep seawater by buggy owners to ferry tourists from Alibaug to the historic Kolaba fort in the state of Maharashtra.
They have lodged a complaint with H.K. Jawale, the Raigad district collector, urging him to stop the "absolutely cruel" and "unethical" practice of using horses to draw the carriage through water.
The complaint was filed by Arpan Sharma, the convener of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), the largest umbrella organisation of animal rights organisations across the country.
The FIAPO got involved with the issue at the request of Thane's Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which came to know of the cruel treatment of the animals.
"Since Thane SPCA is on the governing board of FIAPO, we sought its intervention in the matter. We did so after our equine expert Dr Suhas Rane visited Alibaug along with a team and took stock of the situation there," said Shakuntala Majumdar, the Thane SPCA president.
Kolaba fort is an old military fortification with history dating back to the times of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji. In 1662, Shivaji reportedly strengthened the fort, from where his soldiers attacked British ships. It is located about 2km into the sea off the Konkan coastal town of Alibaug, 35km south of Mumbai. It is a popular tourist destination.
About 40 horse carts — each drawn by two horses — ferry tourists from the Alibaug shore to the Kolaba fort. They carry anywhere between five and seven people on trip. A horse cart makes 10-12 trips daily. The cart fare is Rs150 per person for a return trip.
In his letter to the top district official, Sharma said: "We are in receipt of pictures as evidence showing that horse buggies are being used to transport tourists, crossing sea to reach the fort and back.
Earlier only boats were used for this purpose. Horses naturally are not inclined towards water. They are whipped and forced to enter deep saline water" drawing the heavy cart.