Gujarat: Shelters Release Thousands of Cows in Protest Against Lack of Govt Funds

Nearly 1,750 cowsheds run by charitable trusts, housing over 4.5 lakh cattle, have joined the agitation against the ruling BJP government for failing to release funds allocated for cow shelters.

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New Delhi: The charitable trusts running cow shelters in Gujarat have set the animals free, often into government buildings, as they claim that the government has not released funds allocated for the shelters, the Indian Express reported.

The latest development comes amidst the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s growing unease over stray cow issues.

Last month, a fortnight after former Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel was injured by a stray cow while leading a BJP ‘Tiranga Yatra’ or tricolour march in Kadi town of Mehsana district, stray cows attacked two youths in separate incidents.

According to the Express report, nearly 1,750 cowsheds run by such trusts, housing over 4.5 lakh cattle, had joined the agitation against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party by Sunday, September 25. They have also called for a boycott of the upcoming Gujarat assembly elections.

Several Twitter users have shared videos of cows entering government buildings like offices of the sub-divisional magistrate and courts.

India Today reported that at least 10,000 cows were released on roads by the trustees of cow shelter homes as a part of their protest against the government. And because of this, traffic on the North Gujarat highways came to a halt.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Gau Seva Sangh, a conglomerate of several such cow shelters that house old cows and sick cattle, told the Indian Express that at least 70 people were detained in the districts of Banaskantha, Patan and Kutch over the protests.

Similar agitations are expected to take place in the remaining Saurashtra and central districts of Gujarat, sources told the newspaper.

In its budget, the Gujarat government had allocated Rs 500 crore under the Mukhyamantri Gau Mata Poshan Yojana. to maintain gaushalas and panjrapoles (where old animals are housed).

Vipul Mali, the general secretary of the Gujarat Gau Seva Sangh, told the daily: “We feel cheated. Despite promises made by the state government, the chief minister and several ministers, not a single paisa has been released till date. Meanwhile, donations have declined as people tell us why we need them when the government is giving Rs 500 crore.”

Mali added: “We have already declared that we will boycott the BJP as well as the elections. If the state government fails to meet our demands by September 30, we will launch a Gau Adhikar Yatra across the state.”

The Sangh announced on Sunday that the yatra will be launched from Tharad in Banaskantha on October 1. “With a gau rath, hundreds of religious leaders and gau bhakts will join the yatra. It will be taken out in five zones, covering every village of each assembly constituency, where people would take an oath to boycott the elections. Till the time funds are released, through the yatra, a protest campaign led by mahants would be held,” the Sangh said.

Also read: ‘Only if Cow Is Revered, Country Will Prosper’: Allahabad HC Wants Cow to Be ‘National Animal’

The state government is also facing a contempt petition pertaining to wilful disobedience of the high court orders regarding the handling of stray cattle and improving conditions of roads.

Sources told the daily that some BJP leaders from Banaskantha have reached Gandhinagar to discuss the issue with the state government.

Gujarat’s minister of agriculture, animal husbandry and cow breeding, Raghavji Patel, told the newspaper, “The chief minister sincerely wants that the issue should be resolved soon that the government could not release the money due to ‘administrative tangles’.”

“We had made the provision in the budget and also announced its implementation from April 1, but due to administrative tangles, this could not be done. But as it is under consideration, there will be a positive solution in a day or two,” he added.

He also told the daily that he had discussed the issue with BJP state president C.R. Paatil on Sunday, and that there will be a positive solution in a day or two on this matter.

Separately, the government had also withdrawn the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022, which had proposed to licence, regulate and prohibit cattle movements in the urban areas. The decision was taken after the Maldhari (cattle-rearer) community protested against the method of impounding the cattle and hefty penalty imposed in the Bill.

The protests by cow shelter owners have come amid a raging lumpy skin disease in cattle, with Gujarat being the worst affected state in the country. An estimated 1.69 lakh cattle have been affected by the disease in the state, with more than 5,800 deaths, as per the report.