The Maharashtra government has decided to set up permanent shelters in 34 districts for old cows that have stopped yielding milk to ensure they are not abandoned. The decision comes a year after its controversial move to ban beef across Maharashtra.
Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has allocated Rs 34 crore for the project in the state budget 2016-17. The project — Govardhan Govansh Raksha Kendra — will get a one-time state financial aid of Rs 1 crore in each selected district and will be implemented through a non-government organisation. The NGOs will be selected based on experience and commitment to protection of cows.
The objective is to ensure that cows and other cattle are not abandoned once they turn non-productive. The finance minister said, “The new scheme Govardhan Govansh Raksha Kendra will be established in 34 rural districts of Maharashtra for rearing of non lactating and unproductive cattle with the participation of experienced NGOs. A one-time grant of Rs 1 crore will be provided for this project.”
The government believes NGOs committed to the cause can look after the cow/cattle shelters and even earn profits from products like dung and urine, which can be processed to form organic manure to be used by farmers. Moreover, cow urine has medicinal value.
Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse asserts, “Cows and cattle by-products have multiple utility. From bio-gas fuel to enhancing agriculture produce through use of solid waste, they can be of great utility.” He said cow urine had a good international market.
To turn cow dung into liquid fertilizer, several plants are being set up. Every cattle shelter will have the infrastructure to liquefy the dung through water filters before it is passed through concrete drain and connected to pipes to reach agricultural fields.
The cow shelters will be connected to fields, depending on their geographical location. In some cases they would make provisions for transporting the manure to other villages.
Another decision by the government relates to rearing and conservation of local indigenous breed of cattle at two places in the state, Hettikunti in Wardha and Boad in Amravati which would be modernised and renovated. For this scheme, during the year 2016-17, an outlay of Rs 18.61 crore has been proposed.
Emphasising there is no question of reconsidering its decision to ban cow/cattle slaughter, the government dismissed critics saying that farmers were suffering as they could not sell cattle because of the beef ban.
Recently, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said, “Let us not forget that farmers take care of cows/ cattle as their own children. It is extremely insensitive to even think that because of drought the farmers would hand over their animals for slaughter.”
While acknowledging that the government would provide all financial and logistic help for the farm animals, he said, “We are providing fodder and water for animals in drought hit districts.”
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s keenness to push organic farming has been taken up seriously by the state government. It believes organic farming will not only help in soil preservation and enhance soil fertility but also provide chemical-free foodgrains, vegetables and fruits.
It was also decided that all four agriculture universities in the state will be equipped with organic farming research and training centres.