By Priyanka ‘Saurabh’
Man, ever since it was created, has never been alone on earth. As we all know that we share this planet with different species of organisms, such as animals and plants. But even though we name ourselves the superior species because of our ability to think, make decisions, and choose how we want to live our lives, we begin to grow. Our development is intertwined with many different aspects, such as infrastructure and lifestyle. This somehow led us to ignore the fact that we are not alone on this planet. We begin to push other species out of the way, and we sometimes don’t realize that the impact felt by those other species has dire and sometimes fatal consequences, and we sometimes fail to understand that. also fail that it can also harm us.
According to the livestock census data, there are more than 5 million stray cattle in India. Stray cow attack on humans and crops is an issue for residents in both urban and rural areas. Stray cattle are a nuisance to traffic in urban areas and often cause road accidents. The cow prefers to sit in the middle of the road or on the side or divider because the fast-moving traffic is carried away from the animal’s body by flies and insects, and the animal does not need to wag its tail every time. Thus they find it easy, comfortable, and comfortable to sit/sit on the roads. Many of these stray cows sitting on the roads belong to the people living in the surrounding villages. In common parlance, stray cattle include cows, bulls, or calves that are abandoned because they are unproductive.
The slaughter of cows is illegal in most of India, as cows are considered sacred in Hinduism. Anti-slaughter laws were not strictly enforced until 2014 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Earlier, farmers regularly took their old cows to slaughterhouses. Since 2014, cow slaughter has been made illegal in 18 states of India, including Uttar Pradesh. Increasing mechanization in the agricultural industry has also put cattle out of use as work animals and has led to an increase in the number of cases of cattle abandonment. The fear of arrest, harassment, and lynching by cow vigilantes has also reduced the cattle trade. Once the cow stops giving milk, feeding and rearing the cow becomes an economic burden on the farmer who cannot maintain it. The cattle that farmers are unable to sell are eventually left to wander.
It is worth noting that the owners abandon cattle that have lost their usefulness. These cattle are called stray cattle which roam the streets in search of food or are seen sitting in the middle of the street as they have no place or shelter. Cattle are kept in shelters as long as they provide benefits to their owners. It is inauspicious that cows and bullocks who are worshiped as gods are abandoned or neglected. Cattle are an important resource, supporting the agricultural system, and thus contributing to nutritional security. In January 2020, the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying released the 20th Livestock Census, which stated that there are more than 5 million stray cattle in India.
In many states of the country, about 50% of the entire cattle population is in the non-breedable category and can be termed as unproductive. These stray cattle are abandoned, and they have to maintain themselves on their own. Despite the government’s proposal to appoint committees to look into the issue of stray cattle and severe punishment for abandoning cattle, it is often found impossible to identify the owners of deserted cattle. Not only this, let alone their animals suffering from calamities like drought, famine, and floods, farmers are hardly able to maintain themselves. In such cases, they are left with no option but to abandon their non-economic cattle. Over the past few decades, crossbreeding has received immense attention, and indigenous peoples have been neglected. This is also one of the contributing factors to the stray cattle population.
The problem of stray cattle occurs mostly in the cities as they become a matter of concern and sometimes they become a threat to the transport system and also to the general public. However, cattle abandoned in villages raid crops to feed themselves, causing damage to crops and farmers. Once they become ineligible, their upbringing is financially unprofitable. Thus, they are either completely deserted or sold to slaughterhouses to gain monetary benefits from their meat. The government has intervened many times to solve the problem of stray animals.
To solve the problem of stray animals, keeping them in gaushalas is not enough and effective. The government needs to look beyond this and consider other options to save the stray cattle from suffering as well as save the public from the danger posed by these stray cattle. Stray Animal Board should be constituted at the national level to take care of the unclaimed animals. Mere setting up cowsheds is not the solution to the problem of stray animals. The government should pay Rs. per bullock to the farmers during the agricultural season. If animal husbandry is encouraged, people will not abandon their animals. In addition, if animals are tagged with owner information, they can be traced back to their owners.
Also, the way gaushalas are functioning in the country, what good can happen to stray cattle, and what extent. Rashtriya Gokul Mission, also an initiative of the government, has not been able to achieve the desired goals. An initiative to support India’s cowsheds and indigenous breeds, though a profitable move, efforts on the part of state governments to implement it have been lacking. Therefore, to deal with the problem of stray animals, the recommendations made in the Gaushala Niyamali of Maneka Gandhi should be taken by the government strictly implement, and at the same time, the government should consider other options.