By Upasana Sharma:
A lot of us have sung this song as kids and even adults, without having any inkling about the condition of the poor Ghoda. Even in the song, the Ghoda suffers at the hands of the “Naai” and in the cold. But in reality he goes through a lot worse than what this innocent and favourite-of-many song describes. Victoria or the Ghoda gaadi have been a part of many childhoods. But from what has come to light in the past few years, the ride wasn’t as smooth and as the fun for all involved. Especially the horse.
These horse carriages are, undoubtedly, a beauty to look at. Taking one back to their history textbooks and giving a glimpse of what was. Horse carriages date back to the time of colonization in India. Having been introduced by the British in 1882 as cabs, they were a common feature then. In Mumbai, they ferry tourists around Marine Drive and other old parts of the city. Back then, when they were introduced and run commonly, the traffic situation wasn’t what it is right now. These horse carriages, even now, run with the busy traffic on roads. In the past 2 years, there have been numerous incidents wherein the horse has been rammed into by a vehicle, either killing the creature then and there or injuring it severely.
Apart from having to face the traffic while running with it, these horses are kept in deplorable conditions. Most of them are ill-treated, underfed, given dirty drinking water and live in filthy stables often in their own stool and urine. They, sometimes end up standing knee deep in rain water or are “cold shoed” which means that instead of finding a shoe their size, the owners fit a smaller shoe making their legs unstable. These horses, despite being kept in such conditions, are overworked. They are made to run and carry load more than their capacity. Often being pushed beyond the point of endurance, they collapse due to exhaustion and are repeatedly whipped to get them back on their feet. Most of these horses suffer from untreated and unattended injuries. Rules made to be followed while permitting animals to work are almost never met. Some of the stables are not even licensed.
A PIL has been filed to the effect of bringing these Victorias to shut shop. The argument given by the owners is that these carriages form a source of their livelihood and what will happen to the horses once taken off the road. But now, having been backed by social activist Menaka Gandhi and her NGO, People for Animals, this problem seems to be taken care of as she has come forward to take the responsibility of the horses once they are off the road. Delhi has scrapped the running of Victorias and has set a precedent for other cities. This matter is still subjudice, but has received a strong support from citizens.
As citizens, we should take it upon ourselves to be the voice of the poor creature that can’t speak for itself. Having got our freedom from the Britishers, in this case we have taken up the role of colonizers and this time the slaves are these horses. Next time, you go out to explore the city with your family and kids, think twice before hopping for a ride on these carriages as the ride that is fun for you, is most probably a punishment for the horse.