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Maharashtra’s non-milking cows will soon have a new destination where farmers can send them, and the State government will bear the entire cost of transporting, feeding and treating them until they start yielding again.

Maharashtra’s Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries does not want them left dying and has a solution for farmers who cannot afford to care for non-lactating cows.

“The government will take care of cows of those farmers who cannot afford them when they don’t produce milk. Bring them to us, we will feed them, care for them and once the lactation begins, they can take cows back to their farm,” said the Minister, Mahadev Jankar, to The Hindu. The scheme will start working within the next two months.

Dabcheri in Dahanu in Palghar district is the preferred place for such cow shelters. The Minister said funds won’t be a problem. “We will give whatever amount is required. Protecting a cow is our priority,” he said.

Farmer activists welcomed the move but questioned its practicality. “It’s a welcome step, but why only one faraway shelter? There should be one in every district. It shouldn’t be just another BJP government announcement with nothing on the ground,” said farm activist Vijay Javandhiya.

The Minister however slammed ‘anti-social’ gau rakshaks who in recent incidents targeted men, mostly Muslims and Dalits, for transporting cows. “I will show no tolerance for such men. Our efforts are purely from the farmers’ point of view as we know the economic burden a household suffers while taking care of non-milking cows,” he said.

It is not just ‘gau-seva.’ The State’s cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, horses and even rabbits will be insured to protect owners from financial disaster if they perish.

The government has deposited Rs. 8.5 crore with New India Assurance Company as premium under the plan. Accordingly, the government will pay 75 per cent of the premium for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and 50 per cent for the open category.

Each household can insure a maximum of five cows, buffaloes or horses at total premium of up to Rs. 410 a year. For goats, sheep and rabbits, around 100 can be insured per household at Rs. 60 to Rs. 70.

“The claim would be around Rs. one lakh for big animals and for others, to be decided by officers based on market value,” said Mr. Jankar.