With mahouts facing various hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, many of them seemed elated over the start of the rejuvenation camp, hoping it would mark a return to normalcy.
Senthilkumar, mahout of elephant Lakshmi of Manakula Vinayagar Temple in Puducherry, said he was stuck inside the temple when the COVID-19 lockdown was announced in March last year. “Since mahouts cannot leave their elephants, we could not go outside,” he said. With temples being closed for many months during the lockdown, he recalled that he was able to meet his family only around August after the temples reopened.
Another mahout said the rejuvenation camp was a welcome break for the elephants, the mahouts and their assistants after a difficult year, he said.
A section of the mahouts demanded that the State government increase their salaries at their earliest.
They alleged that the authorities at many temples did not provide the assistance required for the mahouts and their assistants during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Their salaries continued to be low despite the risks in their profession.
Sources in the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department said the State government would consider increasing the salaries of the mahouts.
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