The actions of ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors) along the Dhanbad coal belt have put a cow shelter, or ‘guashala’ in the region in a dilemma — the shelter has already crossed its total capacity, with more cows coming in every day.
The GT Road is the main route taken by cattle smugglers, with the cattle runners transporting cows from Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar to Bangladesh, across the border. The rescued cows are then dumped at the Katras Gaushala, which is located along the national highway. However, the cow shelter cannot refuse new entrants as this would enrage activists of the Gau Raksha Dal.
“The regular dumping of a large numbers of rescued cows has put us in a quandary. We can neither welcome them nor reject them. Since the number of cattle has overflowed, we have had to put some cows in the Krishna temple which is on the premises and at the veterinary hospital. Even then, many are under the open sky,” said Kuwarji, the manager of the Katras Gaushala. His cow shelter has a capacity of 700-800 cows, but at present, 1,281 cows have been housed.
The problem began last year, when the anti-beef movement started gaining popularity across the country. At present, trucks loaded with cattle are stopped almost every day along the 55 km stretch of the GT Road from Bagodar to Barakar, which lies at the West Bengal border. On January 6, the gau rakshaks rescued 15 cows, which were then left at the Katras Gaushala.
Sometimes, the numbers are simply overwhelming. For example, in July 2015, the Gau Raksha Dal seized 785 cows loaded in 44 trucks at the GT Road and handed them over to the cow shelter.
“The (Gau Raksha Dal) activists hand over rescued cows to the gaushala, but they do not arrange for their fodder. The increasing number of rescued cows has upset our annual budget — we have no funds left to arrange for fodder even for the cows which are permanent residents here. We have also been unable to pay our staff their salaries,” said Kuwarji.
The Jharkhand government has allocated a grant of Rs 50 lakh to each registered Gaushala in the state. However, bureaucratic hurdles mean that the funds are yet to reach the gaushala.
“The cost of fodder for each cow comes to around Rs 50, but government is paying us a mere Rs 20,” an official from the gaushala said.