Facing flak from several quarters for accidents and attacks caused by the stray cattle, some even leading to deaths, Punjab Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra has initiated a “physical verification” exercise to ascertain the extent of the cow cess – imposed by Punjab government – being collected and used to check the stray cattle menace.
The minister also wants to know whether “Rs 23 given by government for fodder per cattle per day in the gaushalas across the state” were actually being spent and what is the status of gaushalas in Punjab.
In a letter he shot off to one of the departments, Mohindra noted that stray cattle were “playing havoc with the lives of thousands and it has become a major concern for the government”. Asserting that “a practical way to tackle this menace is the rehabilitation of stray cattle in the cow shelters (gaushalas)”, Mohindra referred to April 2015 notification regarding imposition of cow cess to “chip in funds for 3.8 lakh cows being looked after in the 512 gaushalas, and for making provisions for more than 1 lakh roaming the streets as more than 1000 people are killed every year on the roads of Punjab due to road accidents because of stray cows”.
In the letter he wrote last week, the minister also pointed out that “in the last four days, four precious lives have been lost in Patiala itself.”
“In light of the above alarming situation, there is a great resentment amongst the people who are holding the government squarely responsible for not effectively dealing with the issue of stray cattle. Therefore it has become imperative for the local government department to effectively tap every source of its financial input,” the minister wrote.
“…Through this letter, I call upon you to prepare a report card of year-wise collection of cow cess vis-a-vis the amount chargeable according to abovesaid notification together with the reasons for laxity in the collection and disbursal of the amount to the local government, preferably, within a week positively. It will go a long way in refurbishing the image of the government,” wrote the minister.
When contacted, Mohindra confirmed that he has written to excise and taxation and transport departments seeking to know “as to how much cow cess they have collected and how much they have given to my department”.
“I have also asked all the ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) in my department to furnish details of cow cess collected for the various services rendered by these bodies. I want to know how much money has been deposited for the purpose, which gaushalas are being maintained… I will get the physical verification done. The government pays Rs 23 per cattle per day for fodder and it will be ascertained whether that amount is being spent,” Mohindra told The Indian Express.
The minister added that exercise would also reveal why despite there being a large number of gaushalas the stray cattle were still roaming on roads and causing accidents.
As per the April 2015 notification, a cow cess of Rs 1000 and Rs 200 is to be levied on sale of four-wheeler and two-wheeler vehicles, respectively, in the state. A cow cess of Rs 10 is to be levied per bottle of Indian Made Foreign Liquor and Rs 5 on Punjab Made Liquor and beer. For AC marriage palaces, the cow cess, as per notification, amounts to Rs 1000 per function and Rs 500 for Non-AC marriage palace per function. Cow cess levied on oil tanker per round is Rs 100, cement per bag Re 1, and electricity per unit 2 paise.
Earlier, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia had alleged that that “all steps taken by previous SAD-BJP government to create and maintain gaushalas and the cattle pounds had been withdrawn and even cow cess taken from the people was not used to handle stray cattle.”
The magnitude of the stray cattle menace in Punjab could be gauged from the fact that on August 20, Moga deputy commissioner Sandeep Hans directed the civic authority to capture and remove in 10 days the stray animals from public places and the National Highway in its jurisdiction. The DC issued order exercising powers vested with him under section 133 of Criminal Procedure Code which deals with “conditional order for the removal of nuisance”. The DC pointed out that stray animals posed “danger to human life and property”.