Delhi government modernising cattle shelter where elderly and cows will ‘co-exist, take care of each other’
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Delhi government modernising cattle shelter where elderly and cows will ‘co-exist, take care of each other’

The cow-shelter-and-old-age-home isn’t part of the policy, special development commissioner Kuldeep Singh Gangar clarified, but an “experimental” one.

delhi Updated: Jan 10, 2019 14:48 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
cows,Gopali Rai,dog
The policy also includes so-called cow hostels where cattle owners will get to keep their animals, perhaps even rear them there, all for a small fee(AP Photo)

A dog may be a man’s best friend, but the cow is actually it for old people — that’s the message from Delhi’s development minister Gopal Rai , who said on Wednesday that the state government is modernising a cattle shelter in South-West Delhi’s Ghummanhera and adding an old-age home to the facility where “cows and senior citizens will co-exist, taking care of each other.”

Rai was speaking during the release of Delhi’s draft “Animal Health and Welfare Policy, 2018,” a first for the state. The cow-shelter-and-old-age-home isn’t part of the policy, special development commissioner Kuldeep Singh Gangar clarified, but an “experimental” one.

There’s another experimental project — injecting chips in animals to facilitate their identification.

“There is a big crisis of identification of animals in Delhi, be it pet animals or strays. We plan to inject pets with microchips which will help us rescue lost or abandoned animals,” Rai said, adding that the government plans to change the name of the animal husbandry department to “department of animal health and welfare.”

The policy also includes so-called cow hostels where cattle owners will get to keep their animals, perhaps even rear them there, all for a small fee.

Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi, who is also an adviser to Union minister Maneka Gandhi, however, called the move “odd”.

“The policy has several loopholes as the main implementing agencies are the municipal corporations,” said Maulekhi.

“The concept of cow hostels doesn’t make any sense as there is no limit as to how long an owner will be able to keep his cattle. These hostels will be no different from the existing dairies which are already in a mess,” she added.

Responding to questions on how the policy will be implemented, minister Rai said the government is going to hold more consultations with the Municipal Corporations of Delhi and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which is the primary land owning agency in the national capital.

The policy also recommends controlling the population of monkeys through birth control (monkeys are a menace in many parts of the capital), and mandates 24x7 veterinary services. It also aims to make Delhi free of rabies without setting any timeline for the goal.

“A veterinary hospital that will be operational round the clock will be inaugurated at Tis Hazari on January 16. Apart from this, the government will increase the number of veterinary hospitals in Delhi from 76 (existing) to 272 – one in each ward,” the minister said.

Delhi isn’t the first state to focus on cows. In recent weeks and months, several states have announced new policies aimed at bettering the lot of cows, considered holy in India. In Madhya Pradesh, in September , then chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced the creation of a cow ministry. More recently, in the run-up to elections in the state, Congress leader and current chief minister Kamal Nath promised a cow shelter in every panchayat of the state. Uttar Pradesh recently announced a cess that will be used to take care of abandoned and old cows.

Rai too cited the old and the abandoned at Wednesday’s event. “When a cow dries up, people leave her and she ends up in a gaushala (cow shelter). Similarly, humans too are abandoned and sent to old age homes, even by rich families. So, we have decided that the unit in Ghummanhera will be a joint gaushala and old-age home,” he riffed.

Experts appreciated Delhi’s pro-activeness in framing a policy for animals in the city, but said the government may have gone “a bit too far” with its plan of introducing a cowshed-cum-old-age home. “The expectation is that the senior citizens who live in this set-up will look after the cows kept in the cowshed. The government claims it will not only be an engagement for the elderly, but will also reduce its need for deploying staff for the cows. This is outright unethical because the government will be using the senior citizens living there for their labour,” said Sonya Ghosh, an animal rights activist who was part of the consultation meeting for the policy organised by the animal husbandry department of the Delhi government.

First Published: Jan 10, 2019 07:35 IST