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Royal chariots may replace elephant rides at Amber Fort Palace

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Tourists in Jaipur may soon be ferried around Amber fort in a royal-styled electric chariot. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and Desmania Design on Friday submitted an electric vehicle design proposal to the Rajasthan government which may be used as a new mode of ferrying around tourists in Amber fort. The proposal came after the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) in a report on March 6 recommended that elephant rides for tourists at the Amer Palace Fort and Haathi Gaon be withdrawn. As per a press release by PETA on Friday, the electric vehicle for which the design proposal was submitted resembles a royal chariot and has been named “Maharaja”. The vehicle could ferry four tourists per trip and would be suitable for hilly terrain like that at Amer Fort, said the press release.

Following the recommendation of the committee constituted by the Project Elephant Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to phase out elephant rides at Amer Fort by replacing them with electric vehicle rides, (PETA) India collaborated with leading design company Desmania Design to create the design for an electric vehicle. Through an in-person meeting, on Friday the design was officially submitted to Niranjan Kumar Arya, the chief secretary of Rajasthan, for consideration, said the press release.

“The respected chief secretary listened to PETA India, which represents kind people around the world, and now we hope tourists and elephants will be given the royal treatment with these majestic, cutting-edge cars which can replace animals forced to give rides,” says PETA India Chief Advocacy Officer Khushboo Gupta.

Anuj Prasad, managing director at Desmania Design said that “Desmania is delighted to offer this eco- and animal-friendly electric vehicle design, which would deliver a memorable experience for visitors while helping to end cruel and archaic elephant rides.”

PETA India representatives also submitted a factsheet citing shocking instances in which captive elephants have reacted to their abuse at Amer Fort, leading to serious injuries, deaths, and destruction of property, and requested the chief secretary to safeguard tourists and the general public from such health and safety risks. 

As per a March 6 order of the Supreme court, the central government appointed an expert committee which incorporated the recommendations made by PETA India. These recommendations included ending elephant rides, citing aging elephants and tourists’ declining preference for the rides across Amber fort.

The committee’s recommendations include refraining from using elephants with irreparable eye problems for rides and banning any new additions of elephants for rides. The report notes that of the 98 captive elephants inspected, 22 suffered from irreversible eye problems and 42 had foot problems, including overgrown nails and flat footpads from walking on concrete roads. Three elephants tested positive for tuberculosis, a disease that could be fatal for tourists who catch it.

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