RAIPUR: At least 37 cows died over the last two weeks at a private cow shelter in Chhattisgarh’s Dhamtari district, an official said on Sunday.
Thirty-seven cow carcasses were found in a forest near the shelter located on the outskirts of Rajadera village under Magarlod development block on Saturday, Dhamtari district collector CR Prasanna said.
The deaths came to light after villagers noted an unpleasant smell coming from the forest and found rotting carcasses.
Police arrested Manharan Sahu, native of Umarda in the district who ran the shelter, on Saturday night based on a complaint lodged by the village Sarpanch, the collector said.
“A preliminary investigation suggests that most of the cows had been left there by local farmers after they became very weak due to illness or injuries,” the official said, ruling out starvation or lack of water as reasons for the deaths.
However, exact causes of the deaths would be known only after a thorough probe, Prasanna said.
Sahu had leased three acres of land from a local tribal man for the cow shelter. He set up the shelter a couple of months ago, the collector said.
Sahu reportedly told the authorities that animals, left by farmers, were ailing or had injuries. They paid him Rs 600 or Rs 700 per cow to keep them at the shelter.
Police registered a case against Sahu under relevant IPC sections and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
A team of veterinary doctors visited the shelter on Sunday. The village head was asked to ensure additional shed and water for the remaining animals, collector Prasanna said.
The administration will also release a grant from the emergency fund sanctioned by the Gau Sewa Ayog in a day or two to provide certain facilities at the shelter, he said.
An investigation revealed that there were some 300 cows at the shelter, which were not registered with the government, and after cows started dying, several animals were shifted elsewhere.
Presently there are around 130 cows at the shelter, the collector said.
In August this year, the BJP government in Chhattisgarh had come under attack from opposition over deaths of a large number of cows at three state-aided shelters.
Over 200 cows died in three shelters between August 16 and 18 due to starvation and lack of care, according to state officials. One of the cowsheds was run by a local BJP leader in Durg district, while other two were operated by his relatives.