They want authorities to save over 1,200 animals stranded in Govindghat

Some mule owners and residents of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district began a fast-unto-death on Sunday evening to press the authorities to rescue over 1,200 mules and horses stranded on the riverside in Govindghat, Chamoli.

The protesters, including mule owners, and members of Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), are fasting in front of Joshimath Sub-Divisional Magistrate Anup Kumar Nautiyal’s office.

CPI (ML) member Atul Sati, one of those on fast, said: “Around 35 to 40 mules are dying everyday due to lack of fodder.” The authorities do send fodder for the mules, but it serves only around 400 mules, he said. Some residents held a meeting with Mr. Nautiyal andadvised him to build a makeshift bridge to rescue theanimals. It was agreed that work on the bridge would start in a day or two.

Representatives of the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation, the National Thermal Power Corporation and the Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd. — the hydropower companies operating in the area — agreed to provide financial and technical assistance for the rescue. But, the chief engineer of the Public Works Department rejected the idea, saying the bridge could not be constructed for another 15 days as the work could start only when the construction materials reached Govindghat. That, according to him, would happen only when the Badrinath highway was unblocked.

“We have requested the concerned authorities to give strict orders to the PWD to agree on makeshift trolleys to rescue the mules. The hydropower project authorities also have agreed on rescuing the stranded mules through trolleys. However, this idea of trolleys was rejected by the PWD chief engineer who is adamant on bridge construction,” Mr. Nautiyal said. Talks were on and a breakthrough would be made in the coming days, he added.