IN May, Maharashtra’s Department of Animal Husbandry issued a call for volunteers “engaged in animal welfare activities on religious grounds” to apply for “honorary” non-salaried position of welfare officers to serve as “eyes to monitor the beef ban” imposed last year. The advertisement stipulated that they have no “political affiliations”.
Since then, a deluge of 2,388 applications has come rushing in, each recommended by district deputy commissioners of animal husbandry, with officers having “vouched for the sincerity and integrity of the applicant” and taking “responsibility for their conduct”.
Of these, 2,371 applications were officially admitted, awaiting scrutiny by the High Court-appointed Committee to Monitor Animal Welfare Laws.
Once appointed, these welfare officers — required to possess “working knowledge of animal welfare laws and in particular Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 1976, and Prevention and Cruelty Against Animals Act, 1960” — will receive official ID cards to monitor and report any act of cruelty against all animals.
The Indian Express has reviewed all these applications and found:
* Despite specific criteria disallowing political/religious links, many applications cleared include those who admitted to being members of various Hindutva outfits, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Ram Sena, Hindu Sena, Shiv Sena, Durgavahini, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Most of them have shown their occupation as “social work”.
* Over 60 per cent of applicants have identified themselves as “gau rakshaks” with affiliation to existing gaushalas and gau rakshan samitis.
* Vidharba has the maximum number of applicants at 1,358, with 442 from Amravati district bordering Madhya Pradesh.
From Marathwada, 464 applications were received, with 200 from Nanded district alone. Solapur, near Karnataka, has seen 244 applicants — the highest from a border district after Amravati.
* In several cases, candidates have been put up by NGOs engaged in animal welfare; very few speak of animals beyond cattle.
* Of the Nanded tehsils where elections are due, Deglur, Bioli and Dharmabad — all bordering Telangana, with checkposts for monitoring cattle movement — have seen the majority of applicants (73).
* A section of applicants are “unemployed” and have shown diplomas in Animal Husbandry and Dairy Diploma as qualification criteria.
* Of the total, 41 applicants are women, including 13 housewives and at least one applicant admitting to being a member of Durgavahini. The others are engaged in “business” with one applicant planning to start her own gau shala.
* The other animal which gets mention in the application is snakes, with many identifying as “sarpa mitra”.