Maharashtra‘s ‘employment plan‘ for gau rakshaks

MUMBAI: trusts across the state will soon be entrusted with a unique responsibility: Keeping stray cattle, mainly cows, away from crowded marketplaces and roads. The charity commissioner‘s office has appealed to 40-odd trusts in to accommodate such animals in their shelters.
Charity commissioner Shivkumar Dige said stray cattle are responsible for both traffic jams and fatal accidents. The menace is more serious in small towns and rural areas. “We have decided to rope in gau rakshak trusts, which already have cattle shelters, to provide food and all to such animals till their owners come for them,” he said.

The initial plan is to keep an animal for a maximum of ten days. “The owner of such an animal will incur a per-day tentative cost of 300 which he/she will pay to the shelter while reclaiming the animal. If the owner fails to show up in ten days, the animal would come into the custody of the local governing body,” said Dige. “In the long term, the trust would tie up with the tehsildar‘s office and find a way to hand over such animals to poor farmers at no cost.”

The state had earlier proposed a cow protection scheme involving an allocation of 34 crore as seed money to help establish facilities and buy land, if necessary, for shelters for abandoned and unproductive cattle. The plan did not take off because of the state‘s inability to find institutions that matched the eligibility criteria. Now, the new plan provides for shelters to be reimbursed for expenses on stray cattle.

In big cities, where there are only a handful of gau rakshak trust officers and no big shelters, Dige said a request would be made to temple trusts to build more. Many trust-run or aided animal shelters close to Mumbai are in .

The is likely to be the first local body to start the initiative. “We have already floated tenders to recruit agencies to catch cattle and hand them over to cow shelters,” said Ashok Govindpurkar, the chairman of the corporation‘s standing committee. At present, corporation staffers catch stray cattle and leave them on an open ground where there is no provision for food and shelter.

Govindpurkar said gau rakshaks often protest when stray cattle are rounded up. “Often the owners bring along gau rakshaks and create disturbance. But with the new plan, gau rakshaks themselves will be caring for cattle,” he said. “The agency in charge of transporting an animal will be paid an amount of 300 by the trust.”

Activists have welcomed the charity commissioner‘s idea and said it will only mean greater welfare for animals such as cows, buffaloes and donkeys. It‘s not just injured or abandoned cattle that keep loitering on the roads, but even those that give milk. “Many owners let them loose to graze outside so that they can save up on the upkeep of the animals,” said Sanjay Amaan, chief trustee, Gau Rakshak Seva Trust.

Amaan said transportation cost often becomes a deterrent for smaller gau raksha trusts. “The cost of transporting a cow from to Vasai, for instance, is around Rs 5,000 as it entails hiring a tempo and covering to-and-fro expenses. So even when animals are injured in accidents, we find police and corporation staffers abandoning them on the road.”
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