Trichinopoly Pinjrapole has been sheltering destitute and terminally ill cattle from the 1920s, and is keen to continue the service with the help of technology

It’s a scene of pastoral bliss – cows chewing the cud as bales of hay are stacked up in the sheds. Judging by the shade of trees and the lilting birdsong, it feels as if the Trichinopoly Pinjrapole is situated in a verdant meadow with grassy hills on either side. Not in the city’s congested Khajapettai area, surrounded by slums.

Established by leading philanthropists in 1927, Trichinopoly Pinjrapole is a shelter to save destitute and terminally ill cattle from the slaughterhouse.

Though it had a secular start, for the past 80 years, the centre has been managed almost exclusively by the Jain community which espouses the tenets of non-violence towards all living things as part of its faith.

“The Pinjrapole is run by the Jains, but funded by everyone,” says Manoj Kumar, businessman and honorary caretaker of the shelter, who started working here in 2002. “Without the support of the public, we couldn’t have grown to this level.”

Pinjrapole merges two Gujarati/Hindi words: pinjra (cage) and pole (cattle pen) to indicate the nature of the centre’s service.

Where abandoned donkeys, horses and dogs were once welcome at the shelter in the early years, now there are only cows on the list, leading to its alternative name, ‘go-shala’.

“Cows are easier to maintain,” explains Kumar.

Self-reliance

A herd of 15 milking cows (developed from the in-house breeds) helps the shelter earn part of its keep – at least Rs. 1 lakh is generated from the sale of a hundred litres of milk every month.

The 19 member trust-managed shelter needs at least Rs. 2.5 lakhs monthly, says Kumar, with most of this amount devoted to procuring fodder. “We sell the milk at the prevailing market rate,” says Kumar. “Our cows are fed ahathi keerai (Sesbania grandiflora) every evening, which adds a unique flavour to the milk,” he claims.

The Pinjrapole’s cattle sheds have recently been fitted out with closed circuit cameras to help the remote monitoring of both animals and workers.

The number of cows varies according to the season. “We had 220 animals, now that’s down to 120 because of the foot and mouth disease,” says Kumar. “We’ll be adding animals from March, as we have space for around 40 cattle here.”

Hay and grass are bought from villages near Keeranur in bundles of 30-35kg. Physically injured cattle are kept in closed sheds to prevent crows from attacking the wounds.

Keeping up

Camera monitoring is not the only way in which the Pinjrapole has kept itself updated with technology.

A recently-launched website (www.thetrichinopolypinjrapole.in) details the activities of the shelter and the ways in which volunteers can donate their time or money to the upkeep of the animals.

The Pinjrapole maintains a medical record of all the animals in the shelter. A vet visits twice a week, and is on call for any emergency.

The shelter is planning to shift to an eight-acre plot of land in Mattur, to accommodate up to 600 animals.

“In the long run, our operating costs will come down, though as of now we are waiting to raise the Rs. 1 crore required for establishing ourselves there. Above all, we have to get water supply. We need least 10,000 litres of water per day in our current premises. Once we plant grass in the new plot, we’ll need more water,” says Kumar.

‘Moo-ved by cows’

Spending time with bovine companions can be a relaxing experience, says Kumar.

“Many visitors come here (the premises is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.) for religious reasons, especially during Amavasai and Pournami (New Moon and Full Moon) days.”

What happens when a cow dies? “We just give it away to anyone who wants the carcass of the animal, or hand it over to the municipal authorities,” says Kumar.

Besides cattle care, the Trichinopoly Pinjrapole is also involved in philanthropic activities, with blood donation camps and free food distribution among its many social welfare programmes.

“Owning a pet animal is a hobby; for us, Pinjrapole is a social service,” says Kumar.

“We’d like people to notify us when they find abandoned cattle, or simply deliver them to our premises and we’ll take over from there. Our only aim is to save every living creature.”