A novel initiative launched by the Jodhpur-based Marwar Muslim Educational and Welfare Society six years ago for opening a cow asylum on the outskirts of the city has evolved into a full-fledged institution for the bovine animals and won appreciation from hundreds of people residing in about a dozen surrounding villages.

After successful efforts since 2004 for bringing old, weak, sick, abandoned and neglected cows from nearby villages and providing them a safe haven, the Marwar Muslim Adarsh Gaushala is today teeming with about 125 cows, some of which deliver milk under proper care. Three of the cows have delivered calves during the past year.

The Gaushala, situated at Bujhawad village off the Jodhpur-Barmer highway – 12 km from the main city – is claimed to be the first cow asylum in the country wholly owned, run and managed by the Muslim community. It is a “proud addition” to the selfless work of MMEWS, which is running several schools and industrial training centres in the town.

MMEWS chief executive officer Mohammed Ateeq told The Hindu from Jodhpur on Tuesday that the Society thought of making a “productive use” of the 60-acre land allotted to it by the Rajasthan Government in 1998, when the farmers in the region complained of stray cows destroying their crops and lack of facilities for their cattle.

“The villagers' predicament about cows which had stopped giving milk gave us the unique idea for opening the Gaushala at the vacant land. Our offer for free veterinary services immensely pleased the villagers and they brought the cows in large numbers,” said Mr. Ateeq.

The Gaushala now has a mobile veterinary team which regularly visits the nearby villages to provide free treatment to the cattle, besides organising camps for health check-up and immunisation. The MMEWS spends Rs.60,000 a month on the maintenance of cows and supply of fodder and water to them.

Mr. Ateeq said the initial opposition from certain quarters soon gave way to an immense admiration by the majority community which saw the initiative as a genuine enterprise promoting communal harmony. The Gaushala receives visitors from far and wide and gets its bovine members from villages such as Doli, Gangana, Bhandu, Narnadi, Khudala, Jhanwar and Rohila Kalan.

Gaushala's full-time caretaker Hakim Khan, along with his wife Allahrakhi, serves the cows throughout the day and regularly repairs the sheds and boundary walls to prevent intrusion of wild animals from the surrounding vast and uninhabited area.

In a State where the ban on cow slaughter is strictly implemented, the Gaushala has ensured through its dedicated work that stray and invalid cows earlier roaming about in the streets are taken care of. The medical services provided by the Gaushala also fill up the gaps in the Government's veterinary infrastructure.