TO PREVENT “violence due to cattle-smuggling”, Union Minister of State (Home) Hansraj G Ahir has proposed that 1,000 hectares of forest land be allotted to set up cow sanctuaries in every district of the 16 states where cow slaughter is banned. According to official sources, Ahir is expected to meet Union Environment and Forests Minister Harsh Vardhan early in September to “take the proposal forward”. Ahir is an MP representing Chandrapur in Maharashtra, where cow slaughter is banned.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Ahir confirmed the move and said, “By setting up cow sanctuaries at district levels, the incidents of cow slaughter can be reduced. Violence due to cattle-smuggling in states where slaughter is banned has led to a law-and-order situation. The Home Ministry faces questions in Parliament on these incidents. I have taken up this matter in the past, too.”
Asked about the cost involved, Ahir said, “The cost is zero and fodder can be accumulated from the forest using MGNREGA, which will also provide employment to locals. I have also suggested that gaushalas (cow shelters) across the country be shifted to these sanctuaries. In this way, we will not only stop the sale of non-milching cows to slaughterhouses but also prevent incidents of violence.”
Acknowledging that despite bans and advisories from the Centre, incidents of cow slaughter and violence by cow vigilantes has continued, he said, “Setting up of sanctuary for cows could be one of the solutions. Each district has an animal husbandry department which can be advertised and anyone in the district wants to give up their non-milching, old cows can approach this department. At the national level, Forest, Agriculture and Rural development ministry needs to come together.”
Outlining his proposal in a letter sent to the Environment Ministry on August 16, Ahir wrote: “A total of 7 crore hectare of forest land in the country is unutilised and is not being used by forest department… Only 1000 hectare of this land is needed for setting up cow sanctuary in each district. Any farmer who wants to give away his old cow can send them to these sanctuaries… The fodder required for them is readily available at the forest.”
It further stated: “Due to laws banning cow slaughter in 16 States, the smuggling of cattle has increased and police in these States face the problem of lodging them after seizures… Setting up of cow sanctuaries may prove to be a boon to deal with such situations…”