The anti-corruption bureau initiated an inquiry into alleged dereliction of duty by government officials on Friday, after 500 cows died at a Rajasthan government-run cattle shelter near the state capital over the last two weeks.
The deaths took place at the Jaipur Municipal Corporation’s Hingonia cow rehabilitation centre, located 36 km from the state capital. All the 266 contractual workers at the establishment have been on strike since July 21 because they haven’t been paid their dues for May and June.
Officials said the bovines starved to death after they were caught neck-deep in cow dung and fodder that had turned slushy due to rainwater seepage. “Bad planning turned the place into a quicksand of sorts. The cows died after being trapped for days on end without food and water,” said Bajrang Singh, additional superintendent of police of the anti-corruption bureau.
He visited the spot with other police officers for conducting a probe after the Rajasthan high court sought an explanation for the deaths from the state government on Thursday. However, in the absence of any aid from the municipal corporation, they ended up rescuing the trapped cattle instead. The officers were helped by volunteers from nearby villages.
The corporation sprung into action only on Friday, deploying heavy duty machines to evacuate the cattle.
Meanwhile, the issue took a political turn with the Congress accusing the BJP-led Rajasthan government of not doing enough to safeguard cattle – despite having a dedicated cow protection department.
Pratap Singh Khachariawas, party district president and spokesperson of the Pradesh Congress Committee, said party members would take out a rally on Saturday morning to demand the protection of cows at the Hingonia facility. “We will march from the PCC office to the Govind Devji temple at 9 am to pray for the protection of cows suffering at the centre. The municipal corporation is not taking the issue seriously. The civic body should clarify where the sum of Rs 25 crore allotted to the facility has gone,” he added.
Corporation officials, for their part, blamed the bovine deaths on the strike and bad weather conditions.
While Hingonia veterinarian Dr Harendra conceded that rain was a factor, he blamed lack of workers for the cattle deaths that occurred in the overcrowded shelter spread over 560 acres. He said most of the animals housed there – around 8,000 heads of cattle – were abandoned by their owners on account of old age or ailments.
Municipal commissioner Hemant Kumar Gera said the civic body will deploy more JCB machines and dumpers in the coming days. “If it doesn’t rain, we will have the situation under control,” Gera added.
Sher Singh Luhadia, the deputy commissioner in-charge of the cow shelter, has been served a notice for absconding while on duty.
In June, Hindustan Times had highlighted how hundreds of bovines starved to death in Kochar village of Sawai Madhopur district due to drought.