Sib Kumar Das
BERHAMPUR: People are still attracted to circus although performers as well as managers feel Indian circus troupes may not survive another decade.
Famous Circus of West Bengal is now camping in the city. Spectators like S. Panigrahy say without wild animals like tigers, lions, bears and leopards circus troupes have lost their glamour and glitz.
Decaying tents, props and curtains speak of the corroding state of this once famous mode of entertainment. An artist performs in the grab of a chimpanzee and a small horse has been painted up like a zebra as using wild animals in circus has become a great problem for circus owners.
Manager of this circus troupe, Sarveswar Nayak blames animal activists, especially Maneka Gandhi, for the plight of circus troupes.
According to him, circus has lost 85 per cent of its spectators due to restrictions on using wild animals. About two decades ago there were around 200 circus troupes in the country. Now their number has come down to around 45. Till 2002 Famous Circus had 28 Royal Bengal tigers and four lions, which were its main attraction. But all these animals were seized and shifted to Vizag zoo. At present it has to satisfy viewers with their six horses, six elephants, one hippo and 25 dogs.
Nayak alleges that the government is showing disparity towards Indian circus troupes as foreign circus troupes visiting India at times use wild and endangered animals.
According to him a Russian circus that visited Orissa had used dolphins during the show. Yet the 180-member circus troupe is trying hard to entertain the public. They know they cannot match the acrobatics of gymnasts shown on TV. And their troupe cannot afford Russian acrobats. "We feel bad when small children shout from the galleries asking when the tigers will come out," says a joker of the troupe.
"I feel Indian circus would become part of history if they are not allowed to use wild animals.