Updated: March 6, 2021 1:08:57 pm
Ahead of the Punjab Assembly election which is due in early 2022, the Congress government in state has released a budget of Rs 50 lakh to hold ‘gau bhalaai camps’ (cow welfare camps) for the treatment and care of injured stray cows lodged in registered gaushalas and cattle pounds.
With the amount being released at the fag end of the current financial year (2020-21), the animal husbandry department in coordination with the Punjab Gau Sewa Commission, has already started holding the camps across all districts. To ensure that the budget does not lapse, the animal husbandry officials have been directed to hold 200 such camps at 425 registered gaushalas and 20 government-owned cattle pounds.
At the camp, the animal husbandry officials and vets distribute free medicines and nutritional supplements for injured strays, hold OPDs to conduct a full check-up of cows and bulls, and gaushala owners are being asked for their specific demands, if any. For each camp, the budget is Rs 25,000.
Such camps have already been organised in districts such as Barnala, Moga, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Bathinda, and Jalandhar. As per the officials, at least five or more ‘gau bhalaai camps’ would be held in each district and the target of 200 camps will be completed by March 31.
The flex board installed at such camps in Barnala carried photos of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
VK Janjua, additional chief secretary, department of animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries, Punjab, confirmed that a budget of Rs 50 lakh has been released by the state government on the demand of Punjab State Gau Sewa Commission to hold 200 ‘gau bhalaai camps’ across state.
“Our vets and other staff have started holding these camps. The motive is to provide free treatment and medicines for the injured stray cattle lodged in these gaushalas. The budget released is for 2020-21 so the camps have to be held by March 31,” said Janjua, adding that the first such camp was held on February 22.
Dr Preeti Singh, CEO, Punjab Gau Sewa Commission said, “It is only after a proposal was submitted by the commission that the government released the required budget. We have already organized at least one camp in all districts”.
Meanwhile, the move has set off a political war of words with BJP claiming that Congress was trying to gain mileage in name of cows ahead of state polls and the Shiromani Akali Dal questioning the poor state of the gaushalas.
BJP state president Ashwani Sharma demanded that Amarinder Singh explain the status of cow cess collected from people in last four years.
“Where has that cow cess gone? Has it been used for welfare of cows? Amarinder Singh should first publicly release a statement on the amount that was collected as cow cess and details of its usage. Before holding such camps ahead of polls for political mileage, just check the condition of gaushalas in Punjab and how they have become a living hell for the cattle lodged there,” said Sharma.
Akali Dal spokesperson Dr Daljit Singh Cheema alleged that the gaushalas were “deprived of funds” and “neglected” for four years, which led to deaths of cattle across the state.
“Former CM Parkash Singh Badal had provided excellent infrastructure for cows and several gaushalas were opened during the SAD-BJP government in 10 years but Congress government completely ignored them over last four years. No funds were released even for the daily diet of cows and there were deaths in several gaushalas across Punjab due to negligence of the Congress government. This government has not even released details of cow cess and no one knows where and how it has been used. Remembering cows ahead of elections is a drama when they have been ignored for four years. Who is responsible for cattle deaths due to pitiable condition of gaushalas if not Congress government,” Cheema asked.
Punjab minister for animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, however, termed the move completely ‘apolitical’. “There is still time for Punjab polls. Whatever we are doing is for the genuine welfare of cows. There is nothing political and holding such camps is a routine activity of the department. We released the budget on the proposal of Gau Sewa Commission for the welfare of stray cattle. We are doing genuine sewa of the cows”.
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