Bhopal: The much-hyped programme of construction of 1,000 gaushalas (cowsheds) announced by Madhya Pradesh Congress government—in order to put the stray cattle off the roads through public funding—has failed to take off as merely 10 donors have turned up and only Rs 5,491 have been received in last couple of months.
The Gaupalan and Pashudhan Samvardhan Board has received Rs 5,491 from 10 donors for more than 1.14 lakh cows of 627 government-registered cow shelters of the state.
In a bid to build cowsheds for stray bovine, the State Animal Husbandry Department had launched a portal to seek public donations on October 1, 2019, but not a single donor came up with the minimum donation amount of Rs 1,100—decided by the government as per the requirement to feed one cow for 15 days.
The board has introduced six categories for donations: (i) free donation, where there is no fixed amount of donation, (ii) for installing a borewell to arrange water, (iii) setting up a biogas plant, (iv) making a bull available, (v) feeding cows, and (vi) developing sheds.
The donation amount expected by the board stands between Rs 1,100 and Rs 15 lakh. Out of 10 donors so far, the maximum amount donated by a donor is Rs 1,000 while the minimum is just Rs 35—all in the category of free donation.
According to the 2012 animal census, there were 1.96 crore cows in Madhya Pradesh. Of them, 4.37 lakh were stray cattle, of which, 1.50 lakh (mainly stray) were kept in 604 cow sheds run by the NGOs with government’s support, and the rest were unclaimed and abandoned.
On the basis of cattle/oxen growth rate, recorded between 2007 to 2012 census, NewsClick estimates that by 2018, there were likely 1.75 crore bovine in MP, of which, 62.81 lakh were either stray or unproductive.
The number of stray bovine has shot up especially since 2014, when the BJP government rose to power at the Centre, following its anti-cow slaughter stance and cow vigilantism-related lynchings. Farmers and villagers started abandoning unproductive bovine because they couldn’t bear the expense of providing for unproductive animals.
Besides, the number of private gaushalas has increased from 604 to 627 between 2012 and 2019, but the population of cattle (in cow sheds) has drastically fallen from 1.5 lakh to 26,000, according to the Madhya Pradesh Animal Husbandry Department’s official records.
So, to keep stray or unproductive cattle/ox in the cow sheds, the government needs to establish about 6,000 gaushalas across the state, which will cost around Rs 27,000 crore.
So, in the first phase, the state government has planned to open 1,000 sheds through government and public funding, however, the public funding programme is yet to receive a warm response.
The Gaupalan and Pashudhan Samvardhan Board officers are hopeful despite the initial response and plan to launch an awareness drive.
The deputy director of the board, Dr BS Sharma, said, “The portal didn’t receive a warm response, but it is quite satisfactory that common people from across the state have started registering themselves with us and donating money. Now, we are making a plan to publicise the portal with the help of the district administration in all the 52 districts. We will also hold promotional programmes to attract big donors.”
Congress-led state government had made the announcement to introduce the donation portal in order to overcome cash crunch and for generating funds for the cow shelters.
Minister of Animal Husbandry Lakhan Singh Yadav said that it’s just a beginning. “Every scheme takes time to become popular. We are sure that people want to worship cows and this donation portal is the best platform for them.”
Disappointed with the poor response, a cowshed owner, Sooraj Sharma, who has been running the shed for last two decades, said that this reflects the apathetic attitude of society as well, which talks about cow welfare, but does little. “Where are those who lynch people in the name of cow protection and call them (the cows) their mother? When the government is really serious about it, nobody is coming forward to support. This shows the hypocrisy of the society.”
He suggested that the ministers, officials and political leaders should all also come forward at the same time to serve cows and thus to motivate the common man to follow their steps.
MP Govt Uses MNREGA Funds to Build Cowsheds, Puts Labour Wages on Hold
To construct 1,000 cowsheds as promised in the election manifesto, the Congress government is using MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) funds.
In doing so, the contractors are purchasing construction material by putting labourers’ wages on hold.
The state government has allocated Rs 280 crore for the construction of 1,000 cowsheds, allotting Rs 28 lakh for each shelter. But the MGNREGA norms have provision of spending 60% of the allocated funds on labour wages while remaining 40% for buying construction material required for the project. On the contrary, according to reports, nearly 92% of the allotted funds are being used to buy the building material and the contractors have no money to pay the labourers.
The crisis has emerged as the state government didn’t make any provision of funds for building of 1,000 gaushalas. The sheds are being built by Animal Husbandry Department with MGNREGA funds of Rs 280 crore in the first phase.
As a result, the government is left with insufficient funds for the wages of the workers building these gaushalas. If the labour wages are to be fully paid, budget for the construction of the gaushalas will be affected adversely, a contractor said.
The situation has led the zila panchayat officials to write to MNREGA Council for guidance, saying that if labourers are to be paid wages, then the administration will have to stop all types of constructions.
An official said that on an average, one panchayat spends Rs 15 lakh on construction under which CC Roads, stop dams, culverts, etc. are built.
Acknowledging the issue, Panchayat Minister Kamleshwar Patel said that provisions are being made, but Centre is yet to release the funds to state.
Also read: MP Govt Under Debt, But Paid Rs 36 Crore to Dismantled NGO