Amini zoo was put up adjacent to the Punjab Raj Bhawan on suggestion of erstwhile governor of Punjab Sh. MM Choudhry who was a former CM of Assam. Being a very fond wildLife enthusiast he expressed his desire to set up a mini zoo and throw it open to the public. Many wild species of birds and animals were brought from Assam as a gift. Children from all over Chandigarh used to visit the zoo. There was quite an assortment of animals – Leopards, bears, monkeys, sambar, deer, Nilgai and various kinds of birds.
When I got posted as the ADC to the Governor of Punjab in 1982, looking after the zoo was one of the charges held by the ADC (military) which meant a visit to the zoo on alternate days. The most daunting task I remember came in 1984, when complete curfew was imposed all over Chandigarh during op Blue Star. Meat for the leopards, green fodder for the deer and other food items for the rest were brought from Chaat Bir the main zoo near Zirakpur. All this was stopped as no vehicle was allowed to move. Only the Raj Bhawan vehicles with special permit could move.
The animals were on a forced fast for the first day. One of the Nilgai tried to jump the fence and got stuck half way and hurt itself. I spoke to the governor of the plight of the animals, he said “ask the home department to procure a special permit for the zoo vehicle”. I applied for the special permit but it got entangled in the maze of the home ministry and the army and nothing was heard till late afternoon. The leopards had started roaring with hunger and all other animals also were restless. At my wits end I took the decision to press two of Raj Bhawan staff cars to transport the food. The drivers were apalled and said, “Saab Raj Bhawan ki gadi par chara nahin laad sakte, Raj Bhawan ki beizziti ho jaye gi.” I said you had better transport all the food in your vehicles earliest, “Agar koi janwar ya pakshi mar gaya to Raj Bhawan ki beizziti ho jayegi.” They got the message and for the next two days till when unfew was in force both Raj Bhawan staff cars were transporting meat and fodder. The local nespappers published photographs of these vehicles but then they saved the day for the animals of the Raj Bhawan zoo.
(The zoo has since been shifted out to Chaat Bir and in its place stands the new guest wing of Punjab Raj Bhawan).
Till recently, the author an ex Army
Major, was a member of the Haryana
Legislative Assembly from the Congress