HT Spotlight: 3.8 lakh cows to be let loose on Punjab roads if govt doesn’t help
A total of 472 gaushalas in the state, sheltering 3.84 lakh cow head, are run by public initiatives or with the help of donors. Still 1.10 lakh cows are on the roads. The free power facility given by the previous Akali-BJP regime for cow care was withdrawn by the Congress government after it took over the reins of the state four months ago.punjab Updated: Jul 20, 2017 11:27 IST
The free power facility given by the previous Akali-BJP regime for cow care in Punjab was withdrawn by the Congress government after it took over the reins of the state four months ago.
At present, a total of 472 gaushalas in the state, sheltering 3.84 lakh cow head, are run by public initiatives or with the help of donors. Still 1.10 lakh cows are on the roads. As the existing gaushalas are over-occupied, there’s no place for the stray bovine.
“Now electricity bills are again sent to all 472 gaushalas, which were provided free power during the previous (Akali-BJP) government. Also, the 2 paise per unit cow cess on electricity has also been stopped,” Keemti Bhagat, chairman, Punjab Gau Sewa Commission (PGSC), told HT.
“As many as 141 of the total 160 civic bodies in the state passed resolutions for imposing 2 paise per unit cess on electricity consumption in the areas falling in their jurisdiction, but none passed the collected cess to the gaushalas. I am sure the total collection will be more than Rs 7 crore,” he said.
The civic bodies were supposed to distribute the money among the gaushalas within their limits. “I don’t think the amount collected was so huge. Let me check,” said director, local bodies, Kamal Kishore Yadav.
NO MORE FREE POWER
In the absence of a formal notification and budgetary provisions, a circular by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) on May 8 directed that the decision of the Punjab government taken on March 28, 2016, to give free electricity to guashalas be kept in abeyance.
Bhagat said local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu also turned a deaf ear to their demand.
“The gaushalas are in pathetic conditions. It’s the duty of civic bodies to take care of all stray animals – dogs, buffaloes and cows. In case this apathy (on the part of the government) for the cause continues, we will be left with no option but to let loose all the cows in gaushalas on the roads. If it becomes a law and order problem, we are not to be blamed,” announced Keemti Bhagat, who had written to Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to restore the facility of free power to gaushalas.
In a communication sent to the state vigilance bureau, the cow commission has sought a vigilance probe into the alleged bungling of funds in construction of sheds and other infrastructure at gaushalas in Nawanshahr, Rupnagar, Tarn Taran, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts.
The previous government released grants worth around Rs 35 crore to all 22 districts in the state for constriction of gaushalas, and for fodder and medicine.
“I guess not even 35% of the grant was spent on gaushalas. The rest was diverted for some other purposes, or the cost of works was increased manifold,” said Bhagat.
The vigilance bureau has reportedly started investigations into the matter. “I will visit all districts. I believe it’s the same story everywhere,” Bhagat said.
- 472: Total gaushalas in Punjab
- 37: More coming up
- 3.84 lakh cows in gaushalas
- 1.10 lakh roam astray on roads
- Rs 80 needed for fodder for a cow per day
GOOD SAMARITANS IN COW CARE
Rakesh Chopra, 63, a Kapurthala-based businessman manages a gaushala with 1,080 cows, spread over five acres of covered area and has 60 employees for cow care. He also runs an animal hospital. Chopra said he plans to launch a project for producing methane gas from cow dung, which needs an investment of Rs 1 crore. There are many such individuals in Punjab who are working for the cause.
Traditionally, gaushalas in the state were run by NGOs, trusts or donors who support the cause.
The active intervention by the government started when the BJP-led NDA government took over at the Centre, but still there are no adequate funds for cow care.
Some funds come from the central schemes such as Gokul Mission. But these funds are not sufficient to manage the huge number of cows in gaushalas.
Bhagat said that people of all religions have been supporting the cow cause for years and to confine it to the Hindu religion is unfair.
COW SLAUGHTER CONTINUES
Despite a stringent law and active vigilantes, cow slaughtering continues at number of places in Punjab in a clandestine manner. Bhagat said he had caught such slaughter houses in Dhariwal, Pathankot, Moga, Goraya, Mansa and Sangrur over the past one year. Cows meat from slaughter houses operating clandestinely in the state is exported to Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
NUMBER OF GAUSHALAS RISING
About 20 years ago, there were 100 gaushalas in Punjab and the number has risen to 472 now, said officials in the state cow commission. In the past one year alone, 100 new gaushalas have come up.
The state government is setting up 22 gaushalas and 15 privately managed await registration from the commission, which will take the number to 509.