At least 159 rescued cows have died in a shelter maintained by a Delhi-based NGO in Tripura since May this year owing to lack of proper infrastructure and shortage of fodder. The animals were rescued by the Border Security Force while being smuggled across the international border to Bangladesh.
India shares a 4,096.7 km border with Bangladesh, out of which Tripura shares 856 Km border with the neighbouring country. Patches of the border are still unfenced to the day.
One year ago, around 850 cows were rescued by the BSF from being smuggled. These rescued cows later ended up stranded in areas of Srinagar, Kamthana, Kulubari, Fatikcherra, Harihardola, Kaiadhepa and few other Border Out Posts (BOP). However, due to lack of proper infrastructure to house the animals, the BSF approached state police but they also failed to do so due to lack of scope. It was at this juncture that Dhyan Foundation stepped in and built a cow shelter (gaushala) at Devipur village in Sipahijala district, 22 Km from Agartala.
These rescued cows were supposed to be taken over by the state government according to a previous Supreme Court order, where the apex court ordered state governments to take ‘necessary action’ to stop cattle smuggling and take care of the livestock.
After Tripura government authorities failed to take possession of the rescued cattle, the NGO approached to shoulder the job. They were later allotted 4 acres land amidst over 360 acre forest area at Devipur village in Sipahijala district as per an understanding with Department of Animal Rearing and Development (DARD), where they set up their cattle shelter.
Joshine Antony, volunteer in-charge of the Dhyan Foundation gaushala, told indianexpress.com that the cow shelter lacks proper grazing fields, which pose a serious feed crisis for the cows. They tried to take the animals for grazing in a nearby government land but barricades were put out by the ARDD. The state government didn’t purportedly provide them with any assistance in medicines, veterinary treatment, Antony added.
The shelter which has a capacity of 300 cows, currently accommodates 700 animals. Most of these animals live under open skies, therefore when it rained incessantly for two weeks this month, they were drenched every day and 45 of them died due to ‘hyperthermia’. 104 other cows died of malnutrition and fragile health conditions. “Many of these cows were administered copper sulphate solutions and steroids to kill the hunger and make them more pliable for the arduous journey across the border by the smugglers. Some of them are still suffering from the side effects of the drugs. Most of the rescued animals came in very fragile health and never recovered. On top of that, they suffered from Hyperthermia due to constant rains and died. 159 animals have died in total in our gaushala,” Antony told this correspondent.
At least 150 more cows have allegedly died in the BSF BOPs before they could be transported to Devipur Gaushala, Joshine Antony said. “We found 850 cows in the BOPs this February when we started providing them feed and medicine support, even before they could be transported here (gaushala). Many of these animals were suffering from foot and mouth disease, malnutrition. But we finally got only 700 animals. Around 150 cows must have died in the BOPs alone,” she claimed.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, a BSF spokesperson said, “Our BOPs are not equipped to take care of livestock. There were over 200 cattle at a single BOP. We had to keep these animals since state police declined to accept them. Some of the animals died”.
Denying the allegations levelled by the NGO, the government has so far concluded that cow deaths at Devipur Gaushala occurred due to malnutrition. ARDD director Dr Dilip Kumar Chakma said that samples collected from the cow shelter soon after deaths were reported and post mortem reports confirmed malnutrition as the reason of the deaths. “We provided them with the land as per understanding. There was no agreement on any other assistance. They were supposed to construct sheds and take care of other arrangements. But whenever they approached us, we provided them with every assistance. If they are blaming us now, it is unfortunate”, the official told reporters.
Large number of cows at the cow shelter has become a major concern for people living in adjoining villages. Many of them have threatened demonstrations unless the animal shelter is shifted or properly managed soon. The government is now trying to find land in different districts to shift the cattle. Meanwhile, more cows are being rescued on a daily basis and all these animals are moved to the gaushala, exerting more pressure on the installation.