Victoria Carriages, while not exactly a form of transport, are seen on the roads of Bombay, especially in and around Colaba, where they are used as tourist vehicles.
Usually Silver or Golden in colour, they are mostly seen in and around the Gateway of India, ferrying foreigners around the area. Some of them are lit up, with psychedelic or neon lights, that are turned on in the late evening. They are horse drawn, mostly by white-coloured or brown-coloured horses.
Victorias, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Tangas or Tongas, have existed in Mumbai since the times of the British. They have been an integral part of the city’s culture, much like the Double Decker buses that BEST operates, and today exist, solely as a reminder that they once were a premium product.
In 2015, the situation changed completely. A division bench of the Bombay High Court, after hearing a petition by a city-based NGO “Animals and Birds Charitable Trust” along with the globally vocal “People For the Ethnic Treatment of Animals [PETA]”, deemed the use of these Horse-Driven Victorias for joyrides as completely illegal. It gave the State Government a year to phase them out of the city and also directed them to find suitable rehabilitation for these horses. The ruling also mandated the closure of stables within the city where these horses were housed. Maintaining that using horse-driven carriages for joyrides solely for human enjoyment was avoidable and punishable under Section 3 and 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the bench directed the Government of Maharashtra to come up with a solution by December 2015 and submit a compliance report by January 2016.
The reaction to the ban has been mixed.
Half of the reactions are averse. People claim that the ban will affect livelihoods as well as horses. Interestingly, these include a lot of the people who were vocally against the decision of the government to ban Cow-Slaughter, but at the same time protested the killing of Dogs at the Yulin Festival.
The other half of the crowd is happy that the horses can now lead a dignified life rather than be forced to pull around carts around the city. The perception is that if Cycle-Rickshaws can be banned for being a Nuisance, so can Horse-pulled carriages.
Now, what can be done?
Granted, one more part of the city’s rich heritage is also going, but perhaps there can be a workaround.
The tacky model.
If you’ve ever been to Bangalore, you’d see in parts of the city that there exist Victoria-like carriages built on top of a car, complete with an array of Horses fixed to the front. They are commonly seen at weddings and other social functions. A bit tacky if you ask me, especially for the poshness of South Bombay.
The jugaad model.
Horseless tangas and carts do exist in Gujarat. A visit to the Somnath temple would show how the innovative locals replaced the horse with a motorcycle. Not as tacky as a horse, but hey, it’s closer to the solution, and with some sprucing up, might be able to keep up with South Bombay.
All said and done, I am for the ban, solely on the grounds that horses should not be used for pulling around heavy carriages and fat humans on them. Yes, I call them fat, because well, the average human is fat. But, as visible from the above two points, I’m all for innovation of something new to keep the Victorias running, albeit without the horse. Maybe the Japanese can help us with a Robotic Horse, seeing that they are experts at building Robotic Animals and are helping us build our Bullet Train.
The future of these Victorias, while indeed bleak for the immediate part, can be a bright one, provided the manufacturers and operators are willing to come together and invest some time, and thought and come up with an innovative solution, and not sit down as if it is a lost cause. There is hope. When BEST has not phased out its Double Deckers because of the Heritage value that they posses, then Victorias too, can stay.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Section 3 lists the Duties of persons having charge of animals, while Section 11 talks about Treating animals cruelly.
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