Hostels’ to shelter cows owned by cattle-herders also on the anvil

In what is perhaps a global first, Gujarat will soon have an exclusive sanctuary for cows, near Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. The state also plans to set up animal ‘hostels’ to shelter cows owned by Maldharis (pastoralists) and keep them away from city roads.

The sanctuary, to be developed over a 1,200-hectare area, will shelter about 10,000 cows of various breeds. “We have appointed a consultant to advise us on how to run it. We will perform ‘bhoomi poojan’ there in a couple of months,” said Dr Vallabh Kathiria, Chairman, Gujarat Gausewa Ayog (Gujarat Cow Protection Board).

The sanctuary will also have a research and development centre and a plant to manufacture bio and organic fertilisers. “We can get this fertiliser from cow dung within 45 days, promote zero-budget agriculture and minimise imports of urea, DAP and other fertilisers, which can save India about Rs 1.5-lakh crore worth of subsidies annually,” says Kathiria. “A bag of urea or DAP costs Rs 1,300 while the cow dung-based bio-fertiliser costs only Rs 300 per bag.”

According to Kathiria, a former health minister in the NDA Government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Board is in talks with district authorities to provide land for the cow hostels. The State Government has earmarked Rs 20 crore for this purpose in the current year’s Budget. One such hostel has already been set up in Vadodara. The existing Panjrapols (animal ponds) keep unclaimed cows in urban areas and are run by trusts.

The Board is also working on providing enough grazing land for cows and other animals. “We aim to provide 50 hectares of grazing land around each village. In fact, Gujarat now has 5,000 hectares of grazing land earmarked for cows near Ramsam village in Deesa district.”

To promote protection of livestock, particularly cows, the Board, supported by the State Government, is organising a three-day ‘Cow Festival’ from December 20, in Ahmedabad. “Gujarat is the only State in India to have formulated strict laws to protect cows, whose number has increased from 70 lakh to one crore during the last decade,” said Kathiria.

Currently, Gujarat has 269 animal ponds with 65,000 cows, 24,000 calves and 8,000 bulls. The Board provides bulls free of cost to promote cow progeny, and Rs 1 lakh grant to institutions engaged in research and development.

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee Spokesman Manish Doshi questioned the Government's “political motive” in establishing a cow sanctuary. He said the BJP Government has all along been trying to derive political mileage on the cow issue and played with the people's emotions. He claimed that the BJP regime has, during the last one decade, allowed the maximum cow slaughter in Gujarat

(This article was published on December 13, 2013)
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