The Maharashtra government plans to spend Rs 34 crore to set up shelters for old and unproductive cattle in the state. The state will give an initial seed money of Rs 1 crore to set up these shelters in 34 districts, and also provide land wherever possible to interested parties. “Because of the ban on slaughter of cows and their progeny, there is going to be an increase in the number of unproductive cattle from farming as well as dairy sectors. It is imperative that these animals are taken good care of at this stage of their lives,” said a senior state government official.
The scheme, titled Govardhan Govansh Raksha Kendra, will be run with the help of organisations operating in the field of cow protection. The state plans to set up these centres in 34 of Maharashtra’s 36 districts. The two districts of Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban have not been included in the scheme.
Only those organisations that have been running cow shelters for at least three years will be eligible for funding under the scheme. As per the latest livestock census, Maharashtra has 1.54 crore cattleheads, a dip of 4.35 per cent from the 1.61 crore cattle count of 2007. Of these 1.54 crore, nearly 53.24 per cent or 0.82 crore are female, and around 23.4 per cent of these do not give milk.
According to experts, the slow growth in livestock count is mainly due to a drop in the use of these animals in farming, which is increasingly getting mechanised. Another reason has been the declining landholdings of farmers, which makes buying and retaining of cattle an expensive exercise.
What is especially stark is the fact that while the number of buffaloes, sheep and goats has grown in the state, that of cows and their progeny has been fairly static in the last five decades. Buffaloes have grown by 81 per cent in the last 50 years — from 30.87 lakh to 55.95 lakh. Sheep and goat have grown by 51 per cent — from 72.73 lakh to 1.10 crore. However, the number of cows and their progeny has grown by only 1 per cent — from 1.53 crore to 1.54 crore.