SC asks CEC to look for reduction of mules to zero at Vaishno Devi shrine
New Delhi, Nov 26: The Supreme Court Monday asked the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to look into the aspects of reduction of mules, implanting of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and disposal of solid waste management at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.
The top court asked the CEC to file its response in eight weeks.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said that the CEC would also look into the allegations that dead mules are thrown into the river after throwing them from the cliff.
Senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, appearing for petitioner activist Gauri Mulekhi said that a committee should be constituted to look into all these aspects.
The bench also asked Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jammu and Kashmir government, Mata Shri Vaisno Devi Shrine Board to file their responses on the issues flagged by the petitioner.
Venugopal said that the RFID tags used are of plastic and can be easily tampered.
The bench said that CEC will look into the aspect of disposal of solid waste generated by mules, installation of permanent RFID tag, reduction of mules from 4600 to 2500 and suggestion should be made to further reduce the number to zero.
On September 18, the apex court was told that the mules operating on the Katra-Vaishno Devi shrine track in Jammu will soon be implanted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to ensure that no illegal or unauthorised animal is pressed into service.
In a report placed before the apex court, the sub-committee of the state advisory council has recommended that the cap on registered mules operating on the track would be reduced from 4,600 to 2,500 over a period of 10 years and 175 animal would be phased out every year starting 2018-19.
As part of the long term measures to deal with the issue of rehabilitation of mules and their owners, the panel has recommended that after the number of animals is capped at 2,500, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and the district administration would ensure that number of mules on the track do not exceed 2,000 on a single day.
It has recommended that the state’s animal husbandry department would constitute a task force and create an institutional mechanism to ensure control on spread of zoonotic disease in equines at Katra and the shrine area.
It also asked the department to post more veterinary doctors both at Katra and the track to the shrine to ensure timely detection and elimination of mules infected with zoonotic disease like Farsy and Glanders.
Zoonotic diseases are infectious ailments transmitted from animals to humans.
As part of long term measures, the committee has recommended that the state government should cover the eligible displaced mule owners under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) scheme of the Centre as an extra incentive for their rehabilitation.
A retirement centre would be made and maintained by the district administration and shrine board, the committee has recommended.
It has also recommended that the draft rehabilitation policy prepared by the state government earlier would be accepted and adopted with certain modifications suggested by them.
Maulekhi, who had earlier filed a plea in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has sought removal of horses and mules from the path to the shrine, said they wanted to respond to the report.
The apex court had earlier taken note of the problem of pollution at Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and the surrounding areas and made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir government and shrine board would have to “protect and preserve” both. The NGT had capped the number of visitors to the shrine at 50,000 per day.