Such abandoned cattle allegedly damage crops in search of food as the public grazing lands have either shrunk or have been encroached upon.
New Delhi: Looking to prevent stray cows from landing at illegal slaughterhouses and check cruelty against other animals, including stray dogs, cats and monkeys, the government is making a renewed push to reinvigorate the existing system of engaging and empowering animal lovers at the district level.
Animal lovers and activists are being aggressively nominated as honorary district and state animal welfare officers (AWOs), trained in facilitating implementation of animal protection laws, encouraged to set up and run shelters for old, diseased animals and those rescued from illegal traders and slaughterhouses and given financial assistance by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), which comes under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC).
The latest batch of 30 such honorary state and district AWOs from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura participated in a five-day training programme at the AWBI campus in Haryana’s Faridabad.
Board chairman S.P. Gupta said that the workshop participants will be issued identity cards to help them work effectively in the field for minimising animal distress.
“As per a Supreme Court order of 2008, we are setting up a three-tier Animal Cruelty Control Network at the national, state and district level,” said Mr Gupta, who recently met chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttarakhand for advising them on steps for prevention of cruelty towards animals.
The AWBI’s efforts to speed up the setting up of the three-tier network assumes significance in light of the stress on checking cow slaughter and the complaints of growing menace of stray cows being abandoned by owners after they stop giving milk.
Due to lynching scare and strict enforcement of laws against illegal slaughter, there are no takers of such “dry” cows and states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are facing a problem of plenty. Such abandoned cattle allegedly damage crops in search of food as the public grazing lands have either shrunk or have been encroached upon.
Cattle owners claim they cannot afford to keep a dry cow that consumes a monthly fodder of about Rs 6,000 put produces no milk to contribute to their income.
The Animal Welfare Board of India, which comprises of 28 members including four Lok Sabha and two Rajya Sabha MPs, is pursuing an ambitious anti-cruelty and animal welfare plan that involves creation of shelters, with special focus on cows, development of grazing lands to raise fodder, financial assistance for running shelters, operating dispensaries, medicines and ambulance for diseased animals or those rescued from natural disasters or illegal traders and setting up of bio-gas units and promoting stray animals’ sterilisation.
Rakhi Jha, training coordinator at AWBI, said “The purpose of the workshop for honorary animal welfare officers was to make trainees aware of the laws, amendments and various rules associated with the animal welfare. The participants were also given information on wildlife, disaster management and animal birth control.”
Guest Supreme Court lawyer Manisha T. Karia shared with workshop participants the tools for enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, that aims to protect animals from cruelties, she said.
Ms Jha said the participants were selected on the basis of their track record in animal welfare-related work, excellence in their respective fields and recommendation from the authorities in states.