With the temperatures falling rapidly everyday, dire fate is in store for stray cattle in Himachal due to the upcoming winter season. Lack of shelter and falling temperature can be deadly to these already enfeebled animals. Winter brings scarcity of food, and faced with hunger, they resort to eating anything they could find including plastic bottles and plastic and gunny sack bags, which usually results in their slow, painful death. In winters, these animals might also cause more economic damage as they stray into agricultural lands, and invite the wrath of farmers. The strays that do manage to find food in forests and open grazing lands during the rest of the year, are forced out of those places by snowfall and dying vegetation.
Since the government is apathetic towards the fate of these poor abandoned souls, NGOs like Him Gau Sanrakshan Samiti have taken up the mantle to help arrange their fodder and shelter.
In 2020, Dr. Rajender Attri started this NGO, specifically to address the problem of stray cattle. He built Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar Gausadan (Aaranyak) using all of his own life savings. This cow sanctuary located in Sub Tehsil Pajhota, Rajgarh, Sirmaur houses more than 160 old, infirm, and abandoned cattle.
Even though the cow has been described as invaluable in Hinduism, people abandon them the day they stop giving milk. With increasing mechanisation, and youngsters shifting away from agriculture for other careers, male calves are considered a liability and are abandoned soon after birth.
There is a need for more gaushalas and cow sanctuaries. Many gaushalas in the state are operating at full capacity, and those willing to expand have no monetary means of doing so. The government boasts of having instituted a scheme to provide financial aid to NGOs for making new shelters, but the disbursement of those funds can take months, or even years.
The government is providing Rs. 700 per cattle per month to gaushalas, but that amount is no where enough to meet expenses of the gausadans. The cost to feed an adult animal could range from Rs. 2000 to 5000 per month, depending on the diet and availability of grazing lands nearby. Apart from this, gaushalas also face the burden of other expenses like worker wages and costs for building and maintaining infrastructure. And since the animals arriving at gaushalas are old, malnourished, and often infirm and diseased, medical expenses can be staggering.
The government has a responsibility to solve this issue, and this issue has come up before the High Court of Himachal Pradesh as well. Having approached the Gauseva Aayog, DC, Shimla, and Department of Animal Husbandry, we have found the response rather disheartening. Cow welfare, it seems, is only good as an election gimmick.
After receiving no favourable response from the establishment, we appeal to the citizens of Himachal Pradesh to take up the cause of welfare of these animals. It must be our collective responsibility to not resort to the inhumane practice of abandoning these animals, after years of service and prosperity that they rendered. Residents of our state must find and contribute to their nearby gaushalas – whether financially, or by volunteering their time.
The government and bureaucracy must be swift in their response towards this problem, and extreme delays are unacceptable. More financial support to gaushala is the need of the hour. This need not be in the form of monetary grants. The government could institute distribution of fodder to gaushalas, and the volume of such purchases would also lower the overall cost of upkeep of these animals.
We, at Him Gau Sanrakshan Samiti, are working towards raising funds for stray animals, not just for our gaushala, but for others working in the state. Crowdfunding is the way forward. Additionally, we are also exploring legal actions, like filling a PIL, to make sure that the government machinery can be set in motion.
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