Death of 1,200 bovines at Gwalior shelter spurs blame game | bhopal | Hindustan Times
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Death of 1,200 bovines at Gwalior shelter spurs blame game

While the civic body blamed the consumption of polythene and other waste products for the cattle deaths, the caretaker has cited overcrowding and poor infrastructure at the shelter as the prime cause.

bhopal Updated: Dec 26, 2017 18:54 IST
Shruti Tomar
A manual prepared by Union minister Maneka Gandhi, an avowed animal activist, prescribes protocols for everything from feeding cows to disposal of carcasses.
A manual prepared by Union minister Maneka Gandhi, an avowed animal activist, prescribes protocols for everything from feeding cows to disposal of carcasses.(AFP File)

As many as 1,200 bovines died at a government-run shelter in Gwalior over the last four months, spurring a blame game between the caretaker and the local municipal body.

While the civic body blamed the consumption of polythene and other waste products for the cattle deaths, the caretaker cited overcrowding and poor infrastructure at the shelter as the prime cause.

The disturbing revelation comes in the wake of Union minister Maneka Gandhi suggesting standard operating procedures for the upkeep of gaushalas (cow shelters) across India, which have witnessed a bovine mortality rate of 10% in recent years. The cattle deaths would have gone unreported if local residents had not raised the alarm after seeing 10 carcasses being transported out of the cow shelter one day.

“Autopsies conducted on a few of the cows revealed that they had been feeding on polythene, glass pieces and vermillion,” said Upendra Yadav, veterinary doctor of the Gwalior municipal corporation.

City mayor Vivek Narayan Shejwalkar clarified that not all the dead animals were cows. “They included bulls and calves abandoned by nearby villagers too. Damage to the animals’ digestive system was identified as the primary cause. Polythene blocks intestines and other organs in the digestive tract,” he said.

However, shelter caretaker Swami Rishabhanand disagreed with the civic body’s contention. “Overcrowding and poor infrastructure are the main reasons for their deaths. Ailing bovines are forced to live with healthy calves due to space constraints, and this leads to the spread of infection,” he said.

Ironically, the reason attributed by the municipal body for the deaths betrays its own inability to observe proper hygiene in Gwalior – ranked as the 27th cleanest city in India under the Swacch Bharat survey-2017.

“The civic body is offering nothing but a lame excuse; the cows are dying of starvation and lack of proper medical care,” said social activist Sudhir Sapra. “But if polythene is really the reason, municipal officials should take the blame for failing to keep the city clean. Cattle housed at the shelter have been dying for a year now.”

Congress spokesperson KK Mishra said the cattle deaths have exposed the ruling party’s hypocrisy. “On one hand, our chief minister (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) is holding religious yatras, and on the other, his administration is failing to save cows. The cattle deaths depict the double standards of this government,” he added.

The development, however, has forced the Gwalior municipal corporation to undertake compulsory registration and geo-tagging of cows. “Tagging will make it easier for us to track cows, and take action against owners who have abandoned them. Also, we are encouraging people to use cloth bags instead of polythene ones,” said Shejwalkar.

RK Rokade, director of the Madhya Pradesh cow commission (Gau Seva Ayog), said one should not read too much into the matter. “The death of 1,200 cows in four months is unusual, but it should also be noted that most of the cows taken into the shelter are old and ill. This is a major cause for the high mortality rate. We have also asked the government to impose a blanket ban on polythene. We will further probe the matter after checking post-mortem reports,” he said.

A manual prepared by Gandhi, an avowed animal activist, prescribes protocols for everything from feeding cows to disposal of carcasses. She has asked the animal husbandry department and animal welfare board of India to adopt the document.

(With inputs from Mahesh Shivahare)