In a tacit admission that emphasis on anti-cow slaughter has not helped the cause of the cow, a state government committee has recommended that the existing law should be amended to include provisions to penalise owners who abandon their cattle.
The state anti-cow slaughter law, the Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Vadh Pratishedh Adhiniyam, has stringent provisions to punish those involved in the slaughter and illegal transportation of cattle, but there are no measures to punish owners who abandon their cows on the streets or in nearby villages.
Madhya Pradesh, which accounts for nearly 10.27 per cent of country’s cattle population, has over the last few months struggled with the menace of stray cattle, with reports that abandoned cows were raiding crops and causing accidents on highways. MP has nearly 1.96 crore cattle heads but there is no estimate of the stray cattle population.
“We want to introduce a penalty for owners who abandon their cows. The penalty will be slapped even if a cow is killed in road accidents because it’s proof that the owner has abandoned it,’’ Swami Akhileshwaranand, chairman of the executive council of the Madhya Pradesh Cow Protection Board and a member of the committee, told The Sunday Express. He also said the committee was looking at how to get stray cows off highways and city streets by next year.
Apart from Akhileshwaranand, bureaucrats from the departments of animal husbandry, cooperation, urban development and environment are members of the committee, which was recently set up to suggest measures to conserve the cow.
The committee also wants the nomenclature of the law changed to include “conservation” in it – from Madhya Pradesh Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Adhiniyam to Madhya Pradesh Govansh Sanrakshan (conservation) Evam Vadh Pratishedh Adhiniyam.
Akhileshwaranand said district collectors had been using drones to find out areas affected by stray cows. He said the problem was less acute in tribal districts because “the community still takes care of their cows”. He said only 604 of the 1,246 registered gaushals in the state were active and that owners of gaushalas “who lie about the number of cows they shelter” should also be penalised.
Among the other recommendations of the committee are sterilisation (castration) of bulls of nondescript breeds; creation of gothan (structures where cows can rest), gau abhyaranya (cow sanctuaries) and gau vanvyavihar (forest areas demarcated for cows); and freeing charnoi (grazing) land from encroachment.
In July, the MP Assembly had debated the menace of abandoned cows, with lawmakers conveying the concerns of farmers whose crops were getting destroyed.
MP has the country’s first cow sanctuary that was recently inaugurated in Salaria village in Agar district of the state. The government was forced to inaugurate it ahead of schedule after owners started bringing their cattle by the hundreds.