In a metropolis like Mumbai, where the Premier Padmini cab seems primitive, take a look – you can still encounter a blast from the past, the humble bullock cart. Not carrying farm produce, mind you – they are pulling small oil tanks, supplying petroleum products like kerosene and lubricants. What could be more incongruous than to see the names of high-profile oil companies emblazoned across these tanks, even as they are being moved by emaciated cattle?
We encountered three such carts on the roads yesterday, all of them drawn by weak bulls, struggling to negotiate the Mumbai traffic. Their sedate pace changed to a strained trot whenever they received a few sharp whips – I even witnessed one of the owners reaching down to squeeze an ageing bull’s testicles to push him into a higher gear. One can fathom a farmer using draught animals to keep his overheads down, but multinational oil companies using animals for transport, that too in cities where several other transport options exist, seems really pathetic.
It looks as though these companies, some of them dubbed as the ‘Navratnas’ or nine-gems of the Public Sector, will not shy from exploiting animals to rationalize distribution costs. If they feign ignorance about this final leg of the transport chain, one starts to smell the stuff exiting from the rear ends of these very bulls.
Just as the poor camels on our beaches got some respite from the courts, can we not ban other animals from our roads? In the chaotic rough-and-tumble of Mumbai’s mean streets, why do we need a veritable roadshow of animals, from bullocks to donkeys to elephants?