A visit to Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park turned a big let-down for about 150 schoolchildren on Wednesday. They had come to see the lion cubs which were to be released in the zoo. But not only did they not get to see the cubs, most of them also had to miss their lunch, thanks to Punjab Minister for Forest and Wildlife Chunni Lal Bhagat who turned up four hours late.
The students had gathered from various schools of Punjab. Among them were those who had won prizes in various competitions organised by the zoo as part of the wildlife week, which concluded on Wednesday.
Bhagat, the chief guest, was supposed to arrive at 10.30 am, give certificates and release the lion cubs. The event was expected
to be over by 1.00 pm and the zoo authorities had arranged lunch.
However, the minister arrived around 2.30 pm. By then, many students had left. Those who remained waited without food and drinks until the event got over around 5.00 pm.
As this was time for the zoo to close for the day, the children could not see the lion cubs and returned disappointed.
Sonam, a Class XI student who was part of the group that was to sing the welcome song, said, “We came here at 10 am.” Around 1.00 pm, when the event should have been over, she was still waiting and had got ‘nothing but water.’ “Students had come from far-off places such as Nabha. Parents accompanied many of them, they left after waiting for a few hours,” said Sajia, a Class X student.
Students from nearby villages had been brought by an NGO, Bridge of Hope. They had participated in the competitions. Indras Masih, a member of the NGO, said, “The children have been waiting since morning. The minister should have informed if he was getting late so that the children could have lunch.”
Asked why he was so late, Bhagat said, “I had not been keeping well for the last few days and today fell very ill in the morning.
“However, I decided to come as I had promised. I thought that I will reach by 1 pm, but got late due to traffic.” Bhagat had come from Jalandhar.
At the closing ceremony of the Wildlife Week, Bhagat distributed prizes to the children who had won essay writing, painting, and quiz competitions. He addressed the gathering and talked about the importance of wildlife conservation.
Chief Parliamentary Secretary Chaudhary Nand Lal and Principal Secretary of Forests Vishwajeet Khanna also visited the zoo.
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