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In Assam, a police outpost struggles to take care of seized cattle

As many as five policemen and six others have been taking turns to look after the 85 cattle they seized in September and kept at a plot of land in north Guwahati. Two of them have died since.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2018 13:17 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Assam,police,cattle
Angry policemen say the owners of the cattle have not turned up yet and even a local gaushala in Guwahati have refused to take them.(Sadiq Naqvi)

A police outpost on the outskirts of Assam’s Guwahati has been saddled with a new responsibility since the last more than three weeks.

As many as five policemen and six others engaged by the force have been taking turns to look after the 85 cattle they seized in September and kept at a plot of land in North Guwahati. Two of them have died since.

Officials have approached several authorities to transfer the cattle but no one has replied, said officials at the North Guwahati police outpost under the Changsari police station. Angry policemen say the owners of the cattle too have not turned up yet and even a local gaushala or a cow shelter in Guwahati have refused to take them.

“We wrote to the directorate of animal husbandry and veterinary sciences (DAHVS), the Guwahati municipal corporation and even a local gaushala. None have responded citing lack of infrastructure,” Bhadreswar Pegu, the officer-in-charge of Changsari police station, said as he flashed two orders from the magistrate’s court which on his plea asked the directorate to take custody of the animals.

The local police apprehended three trucks bearing registration numbers of Assam, Bihar and Haryana, full of cattle at 4.30am on September 10.

“They appeared to be stolen since the papers with the driver and the handyman were not in order,” said Pegu. “Moreover, with so many cattle travelling in one truck when only ten are allowed, it also violated the prevention of cruelty to animals (PCA) act,” he said.

A case was registered under sections 379 and 353 of the Indian Penal Code besides the PCA act.

Incomplete papers show the cattle were bought at a market in Alipurduar. The driver told the police they belonged to one Akbar Khan, who is originally from Uttar Pradesh but has settled in Guwahati. “But he said he is not the owner,” Pegu said.

An official of the state’s directorate of animal husbandry and veterinary sciences, who came to inspect the cattle, said they are of several varieties. “The tall ones are the Haryana breed, some are from Uttar Pradesh and there are some Jerseys too,” the official said.

“They are mostly bulls which must have been bought for slaughter,” he added.

While cow slaughter is regulated in Assam, there is no such rule in neighbouring Meghalaya.

Officials of the Border Security Force (BSF) said several cattle also make their way from northern states to be smuggled into Bangladesh and the cattle runners have shifted focus to Meghalaya after a heightened vigil along the border in Assam.

The cattle seized by Changsari police were initially kept in the small piece of land adjacent to the police outpost, but it was not sufficient for such a large number of animals. The animals, who mostly look emaciated, have now been shifted to the large plot of land as the six caretakers and Assam police personnel on duty live in a tarpaulin shack.

“We have asked the locals to pitch in. Taking care of such a large number of cattle is not easy. It costs a few thousand rupees every day,” Pegu said adding some local businessmen have been roped in to help with food which comprises wheat bran and hay as well as water tankers.

“The local unit of Bajrang Dal has helped us too. We are just feeding them enough to keep them alive,” he said.

The directorate has deputed doctors to look after the animals every day.

“We cannot take their custody. We told the high court. This is not in our jurisdiction,” said DAHVS’ director Pullin Das. “Their health is not good.”

The patience of the police is, however, running low.

“Keep 83 cattle for a day and you will know how difficult it is,” Pegu said. “Taking care of the cattle is not our job. Which cop will be interested in seizing illegal cattle if they know this what they will have to go through,” he said.

First Published: Oct 04, 2018 12:43 IST