Gaushalas and panjrapoles in Kutch district get donations of more than Rs 150 crore every year, claimed Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, while tabling The Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the state legislature on Friday, adding the government will also not stay behind in helping these centres that help protect cows.
“I was both happy and surprised to read the figures. In Kutch alone, these panjrapoles and gaushalas get donations of more than Rs 150 crore from the entire state. When this is our culture, when people are doing so much, saints and temples are (also doing), then why should the government remain behind. So, we decided to exempt them from the provisions of the Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act (1960),” said Patel, while tabling the Bill that was later passed on the floor of the house unanimously with support of the Congress MLAs.
He said people from outside Gujarat will not understand the affinity that Gujaratis have for cows. “Every year individuals, establishments and temples make crores of donations to the gaushalas for fodder and cattle care… Kutch is the biggest district of Gujarat, but it is also bigger than a state like Kerala. We all know that it is a border district and is arid zone that receives less rainfall and is prone to droughts…,” he said, citing how Kutch is currently passing through a phase of drought and where thousands of cattle are being taken care of in these gaushalas. “These institutions (cowsheds) also help the government. If such institutions were not functional, then imagine the amount of work and expenditure that the government would have to spend in saving these animals (affected by drought),” Patel remarked. He added that the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960, which imposed restriction upon holding agricultural land in excess, was becoming a hurdle if the gaushalas needed more. “We want to bring a solution,” said Patel. “If there are old cases or appeals pending with the revenue department… The Bill is meant to solve all this,” he added.
BJP MLA C K Raulji pointed out that the Bill will benefit 433 gaushalas and panjrapoles, which house over 2.6 lakh cattle. While close to 10 Congress MLAs spoke in support of the Bill and later helped the government to unanimously pass it, MLAs like Baldev Thakor and Punja Vansh pointed out that the trusts and trustees that manage these gaushalas have been selling land to businessmen. “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the trustees do not do business with the land that they get under the trust. There is a Harihar Trust that operates for cows at Vashinodevi Circle (in Ahmedabad). If care had been taken, then K D hospital would not have come up on land worth crores of rupees,” said Thakor.
Congress MLA Vansh also claimed that similar cases of sale of land by trusts operating gaushalas were also happening in his area. Patel clarified to the House that the state government is not giving any land to the gaushalas under this Bill.