The latest political battle in Rajasthan is unfolding on an unusual turf: a denuded hilltop with hundreds of dead cows. The plateau, which spreads beyond Kochar village in eastern Rajasthan, is at the centre of Congress’s accusation against the state’s BJP government for failing to protect cows despite a dedicated “cow ministry”. Known as the region’s “cow hill”, where locals send their old and feeble cattle to graze, the plateau this summer has seen thousands of cows perish on the hill due to starvation.
“Cows, bulls and other govansh (cow progeny) are abandoned at this place every year. Some cattle die every year. But the deaths this year have been unprecedented,” says Ramkesh Gurjar of Khal-Satolai village.
At the remote site in the Aravalis, a strong stench pervades this vast, barren land located at the confluence of three districts: Karauli, Sawai Madhopur and Dausa. A large heap of cow hides lies hidden behind a stone wall on a landscape strewn with cattle carcasses. In the 26 hamlets in the area, most cows — over 2,500 by official estimates — look weak and severely undernourished.
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“Those that haven’t died, are waiting to die. They are starved, and weak and all that they have is dry fodder,” says Mahesh Chaparna, a local resident. Mahesh, an employee of the New Delhi Municipal Council, says he took a three-month leave to return to his village and work towards fixing the crisis. He claims that in absence of government aid, the little help that has salvaged the situation is contribution from locals.
“We appealed to people and collected some money, which we used to buy fodder, build water tanks and drill some borewells here. The immediate requirement is green fodder,” he says.
The opposition, meanwhile, is using the opportunity to target the Vasundhara Raje government.
After state Congress president Sachin Pilot’s visit to the area last month, the state government announced grant of Rs 1 crore to provide for fodder and water for the cows. Congress claims the aid was reduced to Rs 60 lakh. “BJP uses the cow issue to stir emotions during polls. But its inaction in such a situation shows that it does not care for the helpless animals. This is the situation when the government boasts of having created the first ever Gopalan ministry in the country,” says Pilot.
Refuting the allegations, Gopalan Minister Otaram Devasi says: “There has been a delay owing to miscommunication. But we have sanctioned Rs 1 crore, out of which 60 lakh have been sent. We will release the remaining amount very soon…”