Distubing scene at Manali cow-shelter shows failure of Govt’s stray cattle policy
Manali: One of the Himachal Watcher’s Community (HWC) members, who is an animal lover too, visits a cow shelter situated at Rangri in Manali of Kullu district to offer some edibles to cattle.
Contrary to her expectations, she comes across an obnoxious scene. All the cows were sitting outside the shelter alongside the road. A cow stood adjacent to a carcass of a calf as a crow pecked out its eyes.
There was no one to attend the cows and the gates of the shelter were locked.
I saw a crow eating the eyes of a dead calf, and rest of the cows were outside the gate, which was locked up from outside,
she told Himachal Watcher.
She waited for about an hour in hope that someone would arrive, but no one showed up.
There was no one to take care of them. I waited there for about an hour,
she further added.
She shared a few pictures of what she saw.
The instance compell us to ponder of over the government’s will to obey the orders of the State High Court passed in a judgement in 2015 regarding protecting right to life of stray cattle by providing them shelters.
The court had directed the local administrations of all the districts to construct ‘gaushalas’/ ‘gausadans’ or shelters in their respective jurisdiction for housing cows and stray cattle within a period of six months from the date of order passed (29/7/2015). The State government was supposed to fund the construction of shelters. Responsibility of feeding the animals was given to the local authorities.
In 2012, the HP Animal Husbandry Department had admitted that the issue of stray cattle has aggravated in the State as a result of the malpractice of abandoning cattle by villagers.
The cattle roam on roads including the National Highways and lead to accidents, in which the animals get injured and die bleeding and suffering for days.
The Municipal Councils and panchayats are least interested in the rescue of wounded animals. The people have also become tolerant to such sights where dead animals are being eaten by dogs or crows.
As per the livestock census 2012, Himachal’s total livestock population was 21.49 lakh, and there were over 32,000 stray cattle.
The State had total 130 Gosadans. Surprisingly, 129 of these shelters are run by NGOs. The Animal Husbandry maintain only one cow shelter.
This infrastructure can accommodate only 10416 animals, and only 6498 animals have actually found shelter. Considering the current year, these figures must have increased.
Despite the fact that M.C. Shimla and Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Panchayats were ordered to tag domestic cattle with numbers to make it easy to trace the owner, hardly any efforts were executed by the said departments.
A little research regarding the stray cattle policy of Himachal Pradesh showed that the State government had constituted a special committee “Govansh Sanverdhan Board” to attend to various aspects of the cattle rearing in the State including management of gosadans (cow-shelters) to attend to the cattle which are abandoned by the people after they get old or get ill.
The government had announced a budget of Rs. 10 crores for the management of the stray cattle while ordering the formation of the Board. In 2017, this budget reduced to a meagre amount of Rs. 10 lakh.
The government says it does not have sufficient funds for constructing and running cow-shelters. The excuse of the governmet is justified as their own salaries, allowances, pensions, subsidies on loans, luxury vehicles etc. top the priority list. There is hardly any regard to human life, so it would be absurd to expect the government to show respect to the right to the lives of the animals.
Anyway, prior to the formation of the said Board, there existed the State Animal Welfare Board. The budget for the previous board was about Rs. 50 lakh. By the time it was shut down, the budget had dropped to Rs. 15 lakh.
The Animal Husbandry Department, in its notification issued on October 10, 2016, had launched a scheme “ Incentivising the Entities Involved in the Rehabilitation & Setting up of Gosadans in the State”.
The scheme was supposed to encourage non-government organizations and individuals to set up cow shelters by rewarding the best shelters in the State. The prize money for top three positions were Rs. 15, 10, and 5 lakhs respectively.
However, only those cow-shelters were eligible for this reward or other finacial assistance that were registered with the “Govansh Samverdhan Board”.
However, the procedure to obtain the reward or financial assistance from the Board was so complex and perturbing that only 14 cow-shelters dared to get registered since the issuance of the notification.
There were several other measures that were taken in official papers. For instance, the Gram Panchayat were empowered by allowing them to levy a registration fee and a fine on owners who abandon their cattle.
VIS 11-A of the Himachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj (amendment) Act, 2006, suitable provi.-sitJILh~s-been made to ensure local body responsibility. The various sub sections require that cattle owners are responsible for registering their cattle with the Gram Panchayat,
said the government notification.
Further, the Gram Panchayat were directed to ensure identification marks on all cattle to help identifying the culprits owners of abandoned animals. Sadly, the ground reality is only getting uglier due to slumber of our bureaucrats.