Telangana: Gaushala Federation demands free fodder from govt

Hyderabad: Gaushalas (cow shelters) in Telangana State are reportedly in crisis, as a substantial increase in prices of fodder due to a rise in fuel prices, coupled with torrid summer months, are all resulting in cattle falling ill. Facing a bunch of issues, the Telangana Gaushala Federation has demanded the Telangana government to provide free fodder to cow shelters.

There are around 250 registered gaushala in Telangana and another 150 unregistered ones. The gaushalas are private entities established mostly through public donations with intention to provide shelter for the stray or abandoned cows and bulls properly. Aside from that, after ’illegal’ cattle are caught by unauthorised vigilante groups (gau rakshaks), the animals are sent to these shelters.

“It is becoming difficult to run a gaushala, as we depend on donations from the public. The rise in price of fuel resulted in a disproportionate increase in the price of fodder. A bundle of grass is now sold for Rs. 8 each and prices of dry fodder increased several fold,” said Mahesh Agarwal, president of the Telangana Gaushala Federation. 

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The Telangana police, alleging illegal transportation or cruelty to animals (for transporting them without a doctor’s health certificate), seizes cattle from traders to various gaushalas frequently. It should be the responsibility of the Telangana government to provide free fodder to the cattle in the state, felt the federation.

“There are around one lakh cattle in gaushalas across Telangana State. A few gaushala have around 1500 to 2,000 cattle, so imagine how much it costs to feed it, pay the animal keepers, veterinary doctors etc,” he argued. 

It is mandatory for a gaushala to have a veterinary doctor to take care of animals as cattle can suffer from various diseases. Failure to attend the ill animals immediately leads to its death. “When we ask for government mobile veterinary clinics, the doctors refuse to come and attend. They argue the facilities are for farmers and they cannot come regularly,” said Mahesh Agarwal.

Following awareness about cow protection by several right wing groups, the number of gaushalas in the Telangana have drastically increased. Gau rakshaks, essentially vigilante groups, stop trucks and other vehicles carrying cattle, on charges of cows being transported illegally for slaughter. However, more often than not, these groups also seize bulls and buffaloes as well, illegally, instead of informing the police.

After such seizures, the animals are lodged at gaushalas till their owners, who are basically butchers, get any order from the court for the release. 

The gaushala management charges a substantial amount from cattle owners towards lodging and feeding charges before releasing the animal. “If we charge more from the cattle owners, they argue with us and it leads to a Hindu-Muslim conflict. So the Telangana government should arrange free fodder. It is the police who are bringing the cattle in many instances and shifting to gaushala,” Agarwal said.

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