Very few goshalas or cattle shelters accept old, injured animals; some sell the animals illegally
My last article
was about how it is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to take care of their cattle and the quiet ways in which they try to get rid of them.
I had heard about goshalas or cattle shelters; indeed, many social and religious organizations that run cattle shelters.
I asked some farmers why they do not leave their cattle at such shelters instead of abandoning them to their fate on the town’s thoroughfares. This was the answer: Like many old age homes for people, these goshalas also asked for upfront charge if the cattle is accepted. Sometimes, a ‘donation’ or ‘deposit’ will settle the issue, some others also have monthly charges.
With farm incomes sinking, this is an unaffordable, say the farmers.
Also, many goshalas do not accept non-milch cows or cattle that are aged or are physically debilitated. What is more, the goshalas themselves are few and far between, at least in the three districts of coastal Karnataka.
I have even discovered that the goshala run by a famous accepts only milch cows. Ditto at another, run by a social organization, which also rejects injured or physically deformed cattle.
However, at a goshala at Neelavara in Udupi district run by the famous Shri Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji, the famous seer of Pejawar Math, all types of cattle, including aged and injured ones are accepted.
It is interesting to note that goshalas have had their share of controversies all over India, and, in many cases, the state government or courts have had to step in to resolve issues.
There have been allegations that some goshalas sell cattle to butchers illegally. Those in the cattle transport business complain of harassment by police or pro-cow activists despite having valid documents.
A Business Standard report on 4 March 2015 says that the Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to conduct random checks in goshalas run by temples and maths.
The Court had issued a charter that goshalas
should follow in managing donated cows that are sheltered with them, once they have passed the milk-yielding phase.
The Court banned sale of cows donated by devotees and directed the temples to maintain details of the donors following outrage over temples selling cows to butchers. It also framed guidelines for the maintenance of goshalas, including clean and hygienic maintenance and periodic medical check-up for the cows.
According to The Hindu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had instructed government officials to extend all help to goshalas, soon after coming to power.
“We will look into the specifics needs of cow shelters and try to meet its demands instead of making just casual visits. Rice bran has also been procured,” said a senior official in the Telangana state’s Animal Husbandry Department, according to the report.
In Uttar Pradesh, the police have successfully tackled the menace of cattle rustlers and have been delivering the rescued animals to goshalas
; but many shelters are now refusing to accept the animals since they are becoming a huge burden.
Here in Udupi, when asked about cattle rustlers who take the animals away for slaughter, the farmers just shrug their shoulders. They just blame it on fate.
A story that is common to this region and elsewhere is that the children are educated and find greener pastures in towns and cities; the daughters are married off into well to do families and nobody has time for the ageing parents.
Sometimes, these busy children send money to parents or provide for their medical treatment and hospitalization; sometimes they cannot even come for their last rites.
If they do come, the first thing they do is sell off their ancestral homes and then abandon their parents in old age homes!
What to talk about cattle?
As they say, we can keep debating the issue till the cows come home…
(This is the 3rd part of the series, Fresh From the Farm. More to follow…)
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(Shrikant N Shenoy has been a journalist since 1980, having worked in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Dubai. He launched a news portal and an online Konkani language channel from Manipal, Udupi, but ran out of money. In 2011, he successfully launched an English newspaper with five editions simultaneously on a shoe-string budget. He tweets as @udupinet.