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Posted at: Sep 8, 2019, 7:37 AM; last updated: Sep 8, 2019, 10:07 AM (IST)

Profiteering amid distress in Haryana

State witnesses different layers in tackling stray cattle menace
Profiteering amid distress in Haryana

Deepender Deswal in Hisar

Simple economics is the pointed reason forwarded by Dr RS Dalal, former secretary of the Haryana Kisan Ayog, for the stray cattle issue assuming menacing proportions in the state. “Cow rearing,” he says, “is no longer financially viable for farmers. They don’t want to keep cow as a domesticated animal. Buffalos are a better choice. Do you ever see a buffalo on the roads?”

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The government, he points out, must realise the economics of animal husbandry along with the religious sentiments of the Hindu community. “Frame a policy on cows and stray cattle keeping in view issues like crop damage, road mishaps, and not just religious aspects,” he says. A key reason for stray cows and bulls becoming a major nuisance both in rural and urban areas has been the crackdown on illicit smuggling of cows from Haryana after enactment of the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

As a cascading effect, the farmers are at the receiving end. Unproductive cows are let loose and wreak havoc in fields. The Bharatiya Kisan Union and other farmers’ organisations have been demanding government action to get rid of the strays.

Racket of disposal

Harpal Singh, a farmer of Badhra village and a BKU activist, says the villagers pool in money to pay to gaushalas or any other group that assures to take the stray cattle away from their village.

“It’s a racket. Stray cattle catchers take up to Rs 2,100 per cow to transport animals away from villages. We paid Rs 1 lakh to send the cows to a gaushala to make the village cattle-free last year. But the cows returned as the gaushala left them in the open. You know, when a cattle herd enters my field, nothing is left,” he says. Taking advantage of the new Act, unscrupulous elements under the garb of vigilante groups have been running the racket to transport cows from one place to another. Sita Ram Singhal, convener of Gau Sewa Helpline Samiti in Hisar, detected the activities of a gang involved in the transportation of cows from rural areas in Hisar and Bhiwani. Exposing the modus operandi, he revealed that the racketeers would strike a deal with the villagers and leave spent cows at a faraway place. They also had a fake letter of a Hisar-based Gau Sewa Dham authorising transportation of cows. At times, the bovines are dropped in towns. In Hisar, for example, despite a concerted drive by the MC to catch stray cattle and shift them to gaushalas, the numbers keep on increasing.

Bhani Ram Mangla, pradhan of Haryana Gau Sewa Ayog, however, maintains that he has not got any specific complaint about such illegal transportation of cows.

Guarding against stray bovines

In Bahbalpur village of Hisar, the villagers have found an innovative way to deal with the issue. They have given an annual contract of Rs 7.50 lakh to a contractor from Punjab to guard the borders of the village and shoo away the stray cattle.

The sarpanch says the villagers agreed to pay Rs 700 per acre for one year. “The contractor has deployed five-six men at the entry points around the village to shoo the animals away.”

The cattle menace is also emerging as the main reason of mishaps on highways and in townships. Cows and bulls can be spotted on the entire stretch of the highway from Rohtak to Sirsa, especially at night. An unofficial figure puts at 30 the number of people who have died in road mishaps due to stray cattle in Hisar district. District police spokesperson Harish Bhardwaj, however, says no separate record is kept of stray cattle-related accidents.

The challenge at hand was brought to light in the tragic death of retired policeman Sharwan Kumar’s only son Mukesh Kumar, who was settled in Australia and was with his family for holidays. He died on Kaimari road in Hisar when his motorcycle was hit by stray cattle last month.

Hisar MC chairman Gautam Sardana claims they have caught around 3,500 stray cattle in a month and shifted the animals to the gau abhyaran constructed at a cost of Rs 4 crore on the outskirts of the town. “Our drive will continue. We have dismantled about a dozen illegal animal enclosures. We will make the town free of stray cattle soon,” he says.

Gaushala space encroached

Rishi Saini, a social activist who was one of the applicants who filed a petition in the High Court seeking grant from the government for the gaushalas, says that large tracts of land — gaucharan bhumi — meant for cattle have been encroached upon over the years, leaving little space for the animals. A social movement is the only solution to the stray cattle menace, he says, while pointing to the condition of cows and bulls that feed on garbage. Dr Dalal claims cow breeders (Gurjar community) in urban areas are adding to the problem as they are still keeping the low milk-yielding cows. “They leave the cows in the open to feed on trash and garbage in towns. The cows return home at time of milking. Thus, they have zero maintenance cost in keeping the cows,” he says.

“The government should focus on improving the cow breed and alongside, start castration of bulls to control the rising population. Those business gurus must be discouraged about their discourse of importance of ‘gau mutra’ as they are harping on it purely for business considerations. The zero budget farming based on cows is also complete trash,” he says.


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