As relations between BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal sour, the saffron brigade in Punjab has raised yet another discrimination bogey — this time against the holy cow!
After recovery of cow carcasses had sparked riots at Joga town of Mansa in June 2012, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had announced a slew of cow-welfare measures — cow welfare board to be made a commission, erecting a cow memorial at Joga, a daily allowance of Rs 30 per cow for gaushalas (cow shelters) looking after stray cows, no VAT on items used in gaushalas and waiving power and water bills of 430 gaushalas in the state.
Aided by the BJP, the Gausewa Mission of Swami Krishnanand has launched an agitation to remind the CM of his promises. The mission will gherao the houses of prominent Akali and BJP leaders and ministers, followed by that of the CM this month.
Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma endorses the mission’s agitation, saying many genuine demands are still pending. “The CM had announced a cow memorial at Joga. It was because of the BJP’s efforts that the cow commission has been formed. Such a commission exists only in a few states.
The chairman, vice-chairman and members of the commission are from the SAD and BJP and both parties will soon finalise them,” he said.
Former Punjab Gausewa Board chairman Kimti Bhagat, a BJP nominee, says they have repeatedly brought these issues to the notice of the CM in the last two years. “Farmers are being given free power worth over Rs 5,300 crore annually. The waiving of water and power bills of 430 gaushalas will cost the exchequer only Rs 3.17 crore a year. The cow memorial would cost just Rs 2 crore while memorials worth crores are being built in Punjab by the government,” Bhagat said.
Population on the rise
While the state has yet to notify the provision of Rs 30 per day for sheltering stray cows, the population of stray cows has grown to 1.18 lakh now. The overall population of cows in Punjab, says animal husbandry director HS Sandha, has gone up in the 2012 livestock census. The commission will have punitive powers to ensure welfare of cows, including ensuring strict implementation of the Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955. It would also ensure development of desi cows (indigenous breeds) and entrust seized cows to the care of gaushalas.