The death of hundreds of cows in Hingonia cattle shelter has brought to focus overcrowded government-run animal pounds across the state which too face similar risks due to staff-cash crunch and poor upkeep.
There has been a widespread outrage over the cows’ death with cow protection groups, animal rights groups and the Rajasthan high court criticising the government for its failure to deal with the situation in Hingonia.
The high court had observed that the cow shelter had become a slaughterhouse and formed a committee to probe into the death of the cows.
But, Hingonia is not an isolated case. All the government-run cattle shelters are faced with problem of lack of staff, overcrowding, lack of veterinary doctors and poor upkeep, as became evident after the Hingonia incident. The stray cows that are brought to the shelters are old, already sick or have consumed plastic which leads to their death.
The government cattle pounds are situated in 10 cities in the state such as Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur, Kota, Jodhpur and Barmer.
Municipal commissioner Sarwan Bishnoi in Barmer said the stray cattle brought to the shelter eat plastic and at the government facility, they get dry fodder, which causes a lump in their stomach, leading to their death.
In Ajmer, the Municipal Corporation has initiated a makeover of the cattle pound which was otherwise in shambles. When HT talked to some people who visit the Kanji house to feed fodder to the cows, they said work had begun only after the Hingonia incident.
“The repair and cleanliness work began two days ago after Hingoina cow shelter incident”, said Rakesh Chauhan, a regular visitor. The Hingonia incident infused fear among officials that such mishap may not occur here. They are doing the work out of fear and not as a service to cows,” added Chauhan.
The pound has only one vet, 12 staff and an annual budget of `25 lakh.
Sounding evasive, the cattle pound in-charge Pradeep Kumar Gupta said “The work started two days ago, we wanted to start it earlier but because of a delay in tender and issuing of work order we could not start the work before rains”.
The cattle pound located in Panchsheel area houses around 400 cows. Gupta claimed that mortality rate is low in Kanji house. “Fifteen cows have died since January till date said Gupta. Gupta informed that Kanji house gets a budget of `25 lakh per year. He claimed that cows are fed properly. “We feed each cow with six kg of dry fodder”. Green fodder is arranged by cow lovers and other donors.
In Barmer, at least 50 cows died at the government-run cattle shelter in Barmer in the last 15 days. The shelter, which is essentially an animal pound, has 390 cattle.
The animal pound came up only last year and before that the municipal corporation would shift stray cattle seized from city streets to gaushalas in Gujarat. The Barmer animal pound became functional in March this year.
Jabar Singh, who is in-charge of the shelter, blamed poor quality fodder for the deaths.
“There’s no arrangement for drinking water and cleanliness due to which cows at this center are getting sick. And in the absence of any medical facility, 50 cows have been died so far,” he said.
Many cows present in the shelter are in bad health. If facilities were not improved soon, Singh said, more cows will die.
In the cow shelter run by the Jodhpur municipal corporation in Nandri village there are double the number of cows than capacity of the pound. According to officials, cow shelter home can accommodate about 3000 cows but around 5800 cows are currently staying here. Consequently, around 150 cows have died here in last ten days.
It has 75 staff on contract and eight staff from the municipal corporation. There are four vets and four compounders and the annual budget is `15 crore.
Earlier, the cow shelter home run by municipal corporation was situated in Kaliberi village but because of the land being stony there, hundreds of cows died around four years ago and the cow shelter home was on July 2, 2012 shifted to Nandri village.
Cows mainly die due to consumption of polythene and of various infections. At least 6780 cows have succumbed to deaths during two years of BJP board in the municipal corporation. Earlier in tenure of Congress board, 5840 cows died in two years.
The Cattle pound of the Kota Municipal Corporation situated in Banda Dharampura has witnessed deaths of 4-5 deaths cows per day during monsoon season.
The cattle pound is running since Independence is located around 20 kilometres away from Kota and is faced with the problem of overcrowding. According to the official figures of the KMC officials, Banda Dharampura cattle pound is presently housing a total of 1600 stray cattle including cows, ox and calves against cattle holding capacity of 1200 bovine. The cattle pound has only 3 cattle guards and 2 clerical staff to look after the cattle.
On stray cattle deaths at Banda Dharampura cattle pounds, Deputy Commissioner, KMC, Rajendra Singh Charan said while 1-to-2 stray cattle dies in pre-winter and winter season, the number of casualties soar in pre-monsoon and monsoon season from May to September.
“In this period maximum cattle suffering from seasonal diseases arrive at the cattle pound.” He added that the maximum casualties were due to old age of cattle and consumption of plastic waste.
The Kanji house in Udaipur situated at Dhul Ki Pathi area has a capacity of 400 cattle. A new shed is under construction to extend the capacity further. There are 3 sweepers and 7 guards and one LDC working at the Kanji house to look after the stay cows, Chandel said. There is no regular vet and the shelter calls a vet as and when required.
The president of Gushala Samiti formed by Udaipur Municipal Corporation Ramesh Chandra Chandel informed HT that at present there 234 cattle including cows, calves and bulls. He said no major incidents of deaths have taken place at the shelter and the cows are fed and looked after properly.
(Inputs from Ajmer, Jodhpur, Barmer, Udaipur and Kota)