With over 650 cow shelters and 250 panjrapoles (NGOs involved in animal welfare) housing more than 2.5 lakh cows and their progeny in Gujarat, the condition of these shelters has been under the scanner following incidents of cattle deaths.
According to government officers, though subsidies are given to these shelters, there is no proper mechanism to check the condition of these places. Besides, there is a lack of basic amenities in a majority of these shelters.
“In many cases, we have found that impounded animals would just disappear. The owner would simply inform, after an inquiry, that cows died a natural death but there would be no record to prove it. Last year, we had a similar case in Junagadh, where 600 cows and their progeny vanished from the shelters and the owner got away by saying that the animals died,” said a government source in Gauseva and Gauchar Vikas Board, Gandhinagar.
In the past, there have been similar cases in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Sabarkantha and other districts where hundreds of cows were found dead in the custody of cow shelters and panjrapoles. The cases came to light when this matter reached the courts.
In 2011, the Gujarat government imposed a complete ban on cow slaughter in the state. A slew of incentives and rewards were announced for cow shelter owners, NGOs and those vigilantes involved in rescuing cows from slaughter.
These measures have increased the number of cow shelters in the state from 475 in 2012 to 677 in 2017. The budget allocation has also increased over the years.
In 2012, the government expanded the Gauseva Ayog to Gauseva and Gauchar Vikas Board. The aim was to ensure the development and welfare of the cow and its progeny. Schemes were also launched “to encourage individuals or agencies to prevent cow slaughter.”
In 2012, the state government had rewarded Rs 64 lakh to various agencies and individual informers “for protecting cows from slaughter.” In 2017, the amount increased to Rs 1.6 crore. The annual reports of the board states that the amount was disbursed to 37 agencies and 12 informants.
“The strict punishment and reward for informers and incentives and subsidies for cow shelter owners have reduced cow slaughter in the state. I can say that we don’t have many cases now compared to the situation before 2011. However, there was a drastic change after the 2017 law that has provisions for life sentence to cow slaughterers. I think that is
working,” said Bharat Kothari, who runs cow shelter in Deesa of Banaskantha district.
In March 2017, barely eight months after the brutal assault on four Dalit youths in Una town of Gir-Somnath district, the Vijay Rupani-led BJP government came up with more stringent law to ban cow slaughter which is said to be toughest in the country.
The government introduced rules for the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 2017, that has provisions for punishment of up to life term and Rs 5 lakh fine for slaughtering cow or its progeny.