AS THE Rajasthan government announces its very own cow sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh’s own is gasping for funds. Around five months after it opened its gates to cows, the Kamdhenu Gau Abhayaranya in February this year stopped their entry after realising that it neither had the manpower nor the money to take care of the cattle.
Spread over 472 hectares in Salaria village in the state’s Agar district, the sanctuary, opened in September 2017, was touted as the first such for cows in the country. Besides sheltering stray and abandoned cows, it was meant to promote pesticides and medicines derived from cow dung and cow urine. While plans were to accommodate 6,000 cattle in its 24 sheds, the sanctuary currently has around 4,120 cows. But the money it currently gets from the Animal Husbandry Department is used up in providing just fodder for them.
“The recurring costs are more than Rs 10 crore but the budgetary allocation is half of that. Nearly Rs 4 crore is spent on fodder. Where is the question of taking up new projects when there is a question mark on existing works?” said a source in the Animal Husbandry Department. According to him, a Finance Department officer had asked the Madhya Pradesh Gau Samvardhan board, set up for cow protection, to raise money from donations.
Deputy Director Dr V S Kosarwal, who is in-charge of the sanctuary, admitted the fund shortage, adding, “We have stopped allowing cows since February. The sub-divisional magistrates in the region are denying permission for transport.”
Calculating current and future requirements after the inauguration of the sanctuary, the cow protection board had initially sent a proposal for Rs 22 crore, but the Finance Department had nixed this. Another proposal, for Rs 14 crore, was also rejected.
The sanctuary does not have its own source of income as it only gets cows which are old and sick or have stopped producing milk. Three bio-gas plants set up on the premises provide electricity. A few machines to extract essence from cow urine have arrived, while a couple of experts from Nanaji Deshmukh Veterinary Science University, Jabalpur, occasionally visit the sanctuary.
Animal Husbandry Minister Antar Singh Arya said he had brought the shortage of funds to the notice of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and that the money would be released soon. He said the government was also considering a proposal to hand over the management of the sanctuary to an NGO.
The vice-president of the Madhya Pradesh Gau Samvardhan Executive Council, Santosh Joshi, said only a competent NGO, “driven by the ideal of extending self-less service”, would be chosen. “So far only those with commercial interests in mind have approached.”
The foundation stone for the sancutary had been first laid in 2012, during Chouhan’s second term as CM, but the plan did not work out. Then, even after the sanctuary got ready, Chouhan waited till RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who had also laid the foundation stone, could come to inaugurate it, in September 2017.
Chouhan, however, skipped the inauguration eventually, even as officials developed cold feet over cow owners turning up in large numbers, including from neighbouring Rajasthan, to deposit their unwanted cattle.
In addition to the deputy director, the sanctuary has two veterinary doctors and six assistant veterinary field officers. Labourers are hired as and when required, but officials admit there is a shortage of staff too.
“There have been many mortalities but the number is not alarming because up to 10 per cent mortality is common. Even the best dairy farms report 3 per cent mortalities,” said a government veterinary officer.