It is no secret that for chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his ministers, the cow is an “article of faith”.
But few are aware of the benevolence being showered by them in disbursing crores of rupees from the state exchequer for fodder and shelter in gaushalas (cow shelters) of the state. The chief minister and his ministerial colleagues have sanctioned more than Rs 6.25 crore from their discretionary grants to dozens of private gaushalas across the state in the first 14 months of the BJP government.
CM leads the pack
Khattar, who took over as the chief minister on October 26, 2014, has sanctioned grants of Rs 1.36 crore from his discretionary funds to gaushalas for fodder and construction of sheds, according to information gathered under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and from sources. The grants have gone to 20-odd cow shelters in Palwal, Mewat, Sonepat, Panipat, Rohtak, Faridabad and Jind for buying fodder and building cow sheds.
While discretionary grant of the chief minister is Rs 40 crore per annum, it is Rs 5 crore each for ministers. The Khattar government had enhanced the discretionary grants of the chief minister and ministers within days of coming to power in the state. Though their kitty is small as compared to the CM, the ministers have not let it come in the way and apportioned liberal grants from their discretionary funds.
Animal husbandry minister Om Prakash Dhankar, the ‘driving force’ behind the cows’ ramp walk in Rohtak later this week, matched Khattar in providing for the upkeep of cows. He sanctioned Rs 1.2 crore to cow shelters between November 2014 and December 2015 with bulk of the money going to the ones in Jhajjar and Rohtak. Other ministers also released grants running into lakhs.
Khattar could not be contacted. However, Dhankar said that funds from discretionary grant could be given to anyone. “We are just trying to support gaushalas and look after cows. They are being primarily run by the society. I have given grants for organisations and poor people for different purposes,” he said.
The state has 400-odd gaushalas, including 247 registered ones, with more than three lakh cows.
A panchayat department official said that there were no detailed guidelines or criteria for allocating such funds. “As per rules, a minister can make petty grants and donations to local institutions of a public or quasi-public character and individuals who deserve help from public funds. They have been sanctioning grants for medical treatment and higher education to the poor, improvement in sports infrastructure in rural areas etc,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The guidelines governing the discretionary grants are fuzzy and the release of funds depends on the discretion of ministers, leading to inconsistencies. In one instance, a minister, who doled out lakhs of rupees to cow shelters, allocated a meagre sum of Rs 11,000 to a needy resident of Goyala Kalan in Jhajjar for constructing a house in January 2015. The same day, he sanctioned Rs 40,000 each for two needy residents of villages in an adjoining district to build houses.
Another minister gave Rs 6 lakh to the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in October 2015 to organise a ‘Gaupalak Sammelan’ and create gauraksha awareness. Senior RSS functionary Indresh Kumar, who belongs to Kaithal, is the chief patron of MRM. The ministers have also sanctioned funds to caste-based organisations and clubs to improve their infrastructure.