With no budget, staff, fodder or infrastructure, the only state government-run cow-shelter or gaushala here in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur-Kheri, a district that faces a "cow-menace", is like "a slaughter house without machines", officials say.
The recent death of a 17-year old girl in Lakhimpur city due to stray cows and encroachment by the animals on roads and farms has now left both public and district authorities miffed with the administrative apathy of the cow-loving BJP government of Yogi Adityanath. At present, with nowhere to go, cows and bulls dominate the roads and streets of the entire district, with accidents reported on a daily basis.
According to state animal husbandry officials, the gaushala here has not received a "single penny" in the last few years. Officials have now started saying "no" to police, public and senior officials if they insist on taking more stray and seized bulls, oxen or cows into the shelter.
In fact, the manager of the shelter has been buying fodder from his own salary for the last three years or relying on donations.
"A few years back, I came to know that Rs 40 lakh was sanctioned for this cowshed, but not a single penny had been received.
"Last month we bought seven trollies of fodder, I paid for three trollies from my own salary and the rest were from donations through NGOs, temples and local bank staff," said gaushala manager Surendra Pal.
"If a cow dies either due to disease or starvation in the gaushala, we will have to face the ire of both the government and the people. There is no fodder or vets on demand," said an official, who did not want to be named.
"When we send an animal to the cow-shelter, we know that it is going to perish soon, because there are no funds to support it. Those shelters are more like slaughter houses without machines," said another animal husbandry official on condition of anonymity.
"The same is the situation in almost all gaushalas in other districts, be it Sitapur or Hardoi. However, Lakhimpur is one of the worst-affected districts at present due to the very high number of stray animals," the official said.
To make things more complicated, officials said the land on which the gaushala animals and other strays are meant to graze is tended by the forest department to grow and sell the green fodder. Thus, the contractors do not allow the shelter's animals there. "So, the shelters do not receive fodder from the government and the animals are not allowed to graze on the proper pasture land," said an official.
Situated at a remote location with poor connectivity at the outskirts of Barwar village, the gaushala's staff quarters have turned into ruins and to look after 25 unproductive animals (11 males and 14 females), Pal had to personally hire private staff. "The staff crunch is another issue. I had to hire a shepherd and a cleaner from the village. Thank god that my salary comes on time so I can pay them," Pal said. Even though the shed has a capacity to hold 100 animals, Pal said he keeps the number low because he can't afford to keep more animals.
"Recently Member of Parliament (BJP) from Dhaurahara, Rekha Verma, visited here and asked me to open gates for stray cows. I said that I would be more than happy to do so, but she should first get the fodder crisis resolved," Pal said, adding that only those animals recommended by the veterinary department are taken in.
Soon scheduled to receive 15 more animals all the way from Jhansi, Pal now has more reasons to worry and more donors to chase.
"We are Hindus and feel that cows should not be slaughtered but no one can celebrate gau mata just for the sake of it being holy. The excessive pressure after slaughtering was stopped is now evident on the roads. Either the government should fix infrastructure or find a way to make them productive," said Ravi Shanker Srivastav, a former state animal husbandry official who retired recently.
"A better way would be to promote using upla (cow-dung cakes) for cremation and other rituals. I'm sure that the so-called protector of religion would exploit this idea as the animal is holy and this would save timbre as well," Srivastav suggested. - IANS