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Cowed down

With law against cow slaughter in place in Haryana, cow sanctuaries, shelters are on the anvil; BKU chief, however, has a simpler solution — sex selection against male calves.

punjab news, stray animals, stray cattle, stray cows There are 1.17 lakh stray cattle in Haryana, and the number is going up every day. Express

When Dharampal, a 35-year-old school teacher in Karnal, was felled from his bike two months ago and broke his arm, he says he was not at fault. But neither could he hold the other party responsible for causing the accident. It was a stray bull.

“I was going out to fetch groceries. It was getting a little dark and suddenly a bull came in front of my bike. I lost my balance and fell. I got a fracture in my arm,” he recounted ruefully.

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While Dharampal sustained injuries, there have been several instances when accidents caused by stray cattle have even caused deaths. In Sirsa, more than 40 deaths were caused by stray cattle last year.

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“Stray cattle are a menace. It seems the number is increasing by the day. Stringent action should be taken against those who let cattle loose,” Dharampal said.

But the state that passed a stringent law against cow slaughter, appears clueless when it comes to dealing with stray cattle.

Even before the Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gau Samvardhan law, stray cattle were a problem. In 2007, four horticulture department officers were killed in Hisar when their jeep hit stray cattle. But the number of strays have now increased manifold. According to official estimates, there are 1.17 lakh stray cattle in Haryana, and the number is going up every day.

It’s not just the roads, they are also causing havoc in the fields.

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President of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Gurnam Singh Chaduni says that the stray cattle are a big problem for the farmers. “The bulls go on a rampage and destroy standing crop. There is a need for constantly keeping a watch on the fields. The villages are full of stray cattle and the government needs to look at a solution at the earliest,” he said.

In Hisar, a large number of farmers under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha, have been holding a protest. Among the other demands made by them is a check on the stray cattle menace.

“The government seems to be unable to control the problem. Farmers have to guard the fields throughout the night or have to build fences at extra cost to keep the bulls out. Once a stray animal enters the field, the hard work put in by the farmers comes to naught. The farmers here are demanding that the government check the problem,” said Harpal Singh, the general secretary of the Sabha.

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But farmers are partly to blame — they abandon ageing bulls and cows and buffaloes that are no longer milk yielding to fend for themselves.

There is no longer the option of selling off cattle. Cow slaughter attracts imprisonment ranging from three to 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. A permit is needed for transportation of cattle. No permit is given for transporting cattle to states where slaughtering is allowed.

Also as part of this Act, the government has undertaken to build “cow sanctuaries” and cow shelters.

The Haryana Gau Sewa Aayog is working towards implementation of these proposals. Already 3 lakh heads of cattle are present in around 400 cow shelters across the state.

Proposals are on the anvil to construct atleast five cow sanctuaries within one year. The first such sanctuary is coming up over 200 acres in Panipat. It will have a provision for keeping 5,000 heads of cattle. Land is being taken from villagers in different districts for setting up the cow shelters.

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But the expenses are huge. An estimated Rs 40-50 is the daily spend on cows in shelters. The government is now casting around for ways to make shelters self-sufficient.

Chairman of the Haryana Gau Sewa Aayog Bhani Ram Mangla said a proposal for setting up biogas plants at the sanctuaries is under consideration. Also proposed are plants for conversion of methane into CNG, and the sale of manure and cow urine. There is also a plan to launch a milk brand in partnership with a private company. The Aayog has also sought help from the government to set up solar power plants at cow shelters so that the electricity generated can be put to use in the shelters, thus saving on bills.

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Chauduni has a simpler solution — the opposite of what Haryana is infamous for with its girl children: sex selection against male calves. “Male calves don’t have the strength to work in fields. Anyway there is no big need for cattle in farm work as a lot of machinery has come in. The government needs to look at the possibility of undertaking sex selection so that male calves are not born,” he said.

At the Government Livestock Farm at Hisar, where 60 male calves were recently born, the Animal Husbandry department is planning to hold an auction to sell them.

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An official of the department, however, expressed reservations stating that the possibility of the auction finding any takers is bleak as these have no use for farmers.

“We are in the process of constructing cow sanctuaries and additional shelters. Sterilisation of bulls would be done. There is a problem of large number of male calves which are not being put to any use. In a phased manner, the stray cattle will be taken care of,” said Haryana Minister for Animal Husbandry and Dairying O P Dhankar.

He conceded there were no immediate solutions to the problem and said it would be a year at least for the stray cattle to be housed in shelters.

First published on: 14-03-2016 at 09:43:54 am
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