HT Spotlight: Problem of plenty in Haryana gaushalas
Bursting at seams, the 430-odd gaushalas in Haryana are struggling to manage the hordes of stray, injured and uneconomic cattle, left at their doorsteps by the keepers or by the municipal bodies. Driven by the fear of the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act passed in 2015, which provides rigorous imprisonment of three to 10 years for cow slaughter, the number of people coming with stray cattle to the gaushalas has increased manifold.
Although the number of gaushalas has also increased from 370 to 430, and the budgetary allocation for Gau Sewa Aayog has been hiked from a mere Rs 7 lakh in 2010 to a whopping Rs 20 crore by the Khattar government last year, it’s a case of too little for too many in the cow sheds around the state.
The state BJP government, which prides itself on being the divine guardian of the cattle stock, may find the cow becoming the proverbial albatross around its neck if the number of strays in gaushalas continues to swell.
The recent deaths of cattle in an overcrowded and badly kept gaushala in Kurukshetra has come a glaring example of mismanagement plaguing such setups across the state.
Chairman, Haryana Gau Seva Aayog, Bhani Ram Mangla says the number of cattle being housed in the gaushalas has increased as they are not being slaughtered any more. “But alongside, new gaushalas are being opened up to accommodate the increasing livestock. It is the people and social organizations who are coming forward to help these gaushalas,’’ says Mangla.
GAUSHALAS GO THE LEGAL ROUTE
But regardless of the help from the community, the gaushalas are in distress. Take the case of Akhil Bhartiya Gaushala in Rohtak’s Pahrawar village. The gaushala sued Rohtak Municipal Corporation for not paying it the maintenance money for 1,083 bulls it left with them on the promise of paying Rs 50 per day for each one of them.
The MC-owned gaushala in the same village needed some construction and shifted its cattle to the nearby shelter for “three months” in 2015. Two years on, the MC gaushala is still not ready. The funds that MC promised came for initial two-and-a-half months, but have stopped altogether now. “The pending amount has now crossed Rs 1 crore,” grumbled Naresh Sharma, the trustee of the Akhil Bhartiya Gaushala, who has filed a case against the MC in the Punjab and Haryana high court.
The gaushala houses more than 5,000 cattle, mostly strays handed over by farmers. But it is forever short of funds. Around 60 workers take care of the cattle here and there is a medical room, where three government-appointed doctors visit every day. The gaushala raises most of its funds from an annual fund-raising programme in the village. The managers say they spend Rs 1 lakh on the cows every day, while the Gau Seva Aayog pays them a mere Rs 8 lakh a year. “The number of stray cattle on the roads has increased due to government’s stringent laws. And every week a number of cows are brought here by people and police,” said Sharma.
SHORT OF FUNDS
Chairman of Haryana Gau Seva Aayog, Bhani Ram Mangla, says though the Aayog provides financial assistance in the form of grant in aid to the gaushalas, it is important to make them self-sustainable. “This year we have given assistance in the range of Rs 50,000 to Rs 12 lakh to the gaushalas,’’ Mangla says.
Mangla says many gaushalas, which have been given land by village panchayats, rely heavily on government grants. “We plan to increase the financial assistance for creating infrastructure in gaushalas. And we are deliberating on ways to make them sustainable. It is difficult since most of the animal stock is unproductive. However, we are providing additional funds for providing better fodder to the calves besides arranging oxen for insemination. This will help in raising a better livestock which can be monetized,’’ he says.
Initially, in 2015, the government had allocated a budget of Rs 10 crore for the Aayog, most of which went to the gaushalas. Last year, it doubled the allocation to Rs 20 crore. “The gaushalas also get some financial assistance from Animal Welfare Board of the central government. But the fact is that they always need public support in the form of donations,’’ says director, animal husbandry, Dr GS Jakhar.
To tackle the problem of plenty, Mangla says the government plans to set up cow sanctuaries in Hisar and Panipat, which will be able to house up to 5,000 cattle. Then there will be nandishalas for stray cattle. “We also plan to impose penalty on those who leave milch cattle to wander,” he says.
The Aayog has recently started an exercise to tag the cattle to prevent them from being released by gaushalas.
FODDER A PROBLEM
The government is also setting up cow shelters with the help of village panchayats and religious heads, but funds and fodder remain a problem. During a visit to several gaushalas and government-run cow shelters in Karnal and Kurukshetra, it became apparent that most of the cow shelters were overcrowded.
“It is a fact that the number of cattle has increased after government formed the law, which also stopped the smuggling of cows to the neighboring Uttar Pradesh,” says Raj Kumar, caretaker of Shri Krishna Gaushala at Ladwa in Kurukshetra.
“We have over 600 cattle against the capacity of 250 in our gaushalas set up on less than an acre of land, but still people keep coming to us with their cattle. We cannot turn them back as they will then leave them in the city or in the fields,” says Raj Kumar.
Most of the gaushalas depend on the largesse of farmers, who donate wheat fodder, grass, feed and cash for the cows. “Our monthly expenditure is around 2 lakh and we largely depend on our donors as we got only 76,000 from Haryana Gau Sewa Aayog in the last financial year,” says Ishwar Singh, manager of the Shri Krishna gaushala at Ladwa.
With an annual budget of Rs 20 crore, the Haryana Gau Sewa Aayog provides Rs 150 per cattle to all the 437 gaushalas in the state but managers say this is not sufficient to feed the cattle for a year.
The number of cattle in the government gaushala at Karnal has increased from 50 last December to over 500. Every day, 4-5 cattle are being brought to this cowshed and Nandigram set up by Karnal Municipal Corporation on about 8 acres of land in Phoonsgarh village of the district.
“We have not got any fund from the government yet. But we depend heavily on donations for feeding and caring for the cattle,” says Krishan Garg, senior deputy mayor of the Karnal MC.
Asked whether he supports the demand of Sant Gopal Das, who is on a hunger strike for getting back the gau chara land from panchayats, Garg says, “Yes, we support his demand. This land is meant for cows and the government must take steps to hand it over to gaushalas”. Garg said the government should provide more funds to gaushalas for the old, ill and injured cattle.
Housing about 2,000 cattle, the Haryana Pinjrapol gaushala in Gopal colony of Rohtak has often run into unsavoury controversies. The gaushala has a serious space crunch. “We have little space to keep the cattle in the open. The problem further aggravates when it rains. The gaushala is short of covered space and whenever it rains, cows suffer,’’ complained a gaushala worker.
Jeevan Sharma, the official in charge, says around 30 cows die here every month. This number increases in the rains as the cows have to sit in mud due to which they catch diseases. “Sometimes, cows also die in stampede as they run for food. And at other times, the food that people feed them kills,” he says. The Gau Seva Aayog gives the gaushala 2.5 lakh a year, which is too little.
Although the gaushala has several generous funders, it often falls short of funds. This is why the cows are given green fodder only in morning, and depend on dry fodder for the rest of the day.
The manager says there are over 30 workers at the gaushala, but they only clean it in morning. The cows stand and sit on their dung for the rest of the day. The gaushala accepts stray cattle as well as cattle from farmers. They say the government has left over 1,000 cows and bulls with them on the promise to pay Rs 50 a day per cow, but the gaushala is yet to receive a paisa for the past several months.
Sanjay Bansal, member of Shri Radha-Krishan Gau Seva Sadan Trust in Sirsa district, grumbles that the number of stray bull housed in their gaushala is more than 600 but there is only one shed.
Bansal says they are able to take care of the cattle only because of generous contributors who pitch in with fodder and even call veterinary doctors. “The government gave us land for the gaushala without any other facilities. We have met the deputy commissioner (DC) but to no avail,” griped Suresh Jain, president of the trust.
Jain said, “We are in touch with trained government doctors who we call when needed. We pay the doctors from our own pocket and also bring proper food.”
When asked about Sant Gopal Das’s campaign for cows, Suresh Jain and Sanjay Bansal chorus, “We support him as he is working for the welfare of the stray cattle. It is a fact that we humans have snatched the area meant for cattle. Where will they go? The government must provide proper facilities at every gaushala and gauvansh sanrakshan.”
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