Gujarat faces a bovine problem

Cows freed by shelter homes in protest against lack of govt. aid block highways and buildings

September 27, 2022 10:59 pm | Updated 11:01 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

Gujarat faces a unique problem as hundreds of cows are seen either blocking traffic on highways. File photo

Gujarat faces a unique problem as hundreds of cows are seen either blocking traffic on highways. File photo | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

Ahead of the Assembly elections, Gujarat faces a unique problem as hundreds of cows are seen either blocking traffic on highways or cow herds entering government buildings and blocking vehicle movements in cities.

The reason being over 200 cow shelter homes run by charitable trusts have set free the animals in protest against the lack of promised government aid.

As a result, videos of cows walking through government buildings or creating traffic snarls on national highways have gone viral on social media platforms, creating a major embarrassment for the ruling party, which has recently scrapped in the Assembly a cattle control Bill that was supposed to deal with the menace of stray animals in the cities.

The protest by the charitable trusts have been triggered by the government’s failure to provide financial assistance of ₹500 crore, promised in the last budget.

The financial assistance was announced to maintain shelters for cows and other old animals across the State.

Banaskantha Panjrapoles (cowsheds) trustee Kishor Dave told the media that for more than two weeks, they have been protesting and demanding financial assistance as promised and their repeated pleas fell on deaf ears, prompting them to release thousands of cows on the State and national highways besides government premises in north Gujarat.

“We have been telling the government to release the funds but so far, not a penny has been released,” Mr. Dave said.

1,500 shelter homes

In Gujarat, there are around 1,500 panjrapoles providing shelter to around 4.5 lakh cows and other animals. In Banaskantha alone, there are 170 such shelter homes, providing shelter to 80,000 cows. These institutions run on public donations but following the COVID-19 pandemic, donations have dried up, forcing the trusts to seek financial assistance from the State.

In Surendranagar also, cow herds were seen in government office compounds. “Cows were released in schools and government offices and subsequently around 12 persons were detained,” a police official from Surendranagar told The Hindu.

In three districts of Patan, Banaskantha and Surendranagar, more than 50 persons were detained, who were released subsequently.

‘Felt cheated’

According to Vipul Mail, secretary of the Gujarat Gau Seva Sangh (union of cow shelter trusts), after announcing in the Budget, the government did nothing for providing the funds. “We felt cheated,” he said, adding that funds should have been released immediately after the Budget was passed.

He contended that the trusts spend nearly ₹50-60 per animal per day for fodder and medical expenses.

After the protests in north Gujarat and Saurashtra districts, the State government has claimed that the assistance to the trusts running shelter homes for cows will be released shortly. In a release, the Animal Husbandry department stated that the financial aid to the cowsheds would be released soon.

This is the second episode in which the State government has protests in connection with cows. Earlier, cattle herders or animal breeders held a massive maha panchayat near the State capital against the cattle control Bill.

The Bill, passed in the last budget session, was withdrawn after Governor Acharya Devvrat returned the ‘Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) In Urban Areas Bill’ to the government with a request to “reconsider it and make necessary amendments.”

The Bill mandated that cattle-rearers were required to obtain a licence to keep such animals, such as stray cows and bulls in cities and towns and get them tagged, failing which they may face police action.

Withdrawn unanimously

On September 21, on the first day of the two-day Assembly session, the proposal to withdraw the Bill was tabled for vote by Minister of State for Urban Development Vinod Moradiya and it was subsequently withdrawn unanimously as the opposition Congress also supported the BJP government’s move.

The Bill was meant to bring a permanent solution to the problem of stray cattle in eight municipal corporation areas — Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Gandhinagar — and 162 municipalities, which are notified as urban areas across the State.

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