If the BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government has launched initiatives to protect the ‘holy gaumata’, Madhya Pradesh is trying to match the neighbour stride for stride by harnessing the potential of its bovines.
In a recent initiative, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has decided to constitute a ‘cow cabinet’ to give a fillip to rural economy.
According to reports, the cabinet which will have officials from seven government departments, will meet for the first time on November 22, on the eve of Gopasthami, a festival dedicated to Lord Krishna and cows, at Kamdhenu Gau Abhyaranyateh, the country’s first cow sanctuary in Agar-Malwa.
The cabinet will work towards developing an alternate source of employment for rural folks by tapping into the potential of cows and related resources.
Representatives from departments such as Animal Husbandry, Forest, Panchayat and Rural Development, Revenue, Home and Kisan Kalyan will be a part of the cabinet, state BJP chief spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya told Indian Express.
“Industrialisation cannot be the only solution towards providing employment. The economy surrounding cows is a sustainable one which is going on for over 2,000 years. Through this cabinet, the government will provide sustainable infrastructure for developing a cow-economy to raise incomes in the rural setup,” he was quoted as saying.
Situated in the heart of India’s ‘cow belt’, Madhya Pradesh which has a cattle population of 196 lakh, has seen both the BJP and Congress governments working towards protecting cattle and improving local indigenous breeds. The BJP, however, has snubbed the Congress’s initiatives as an attempt at ‘soft Hindutva’.
The Kamal Nath-led Congress government in 2019 had announced its plans to introduce a mobile app that would help people to adopt stray cows, an initiative already adopted by states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
The government had also announced that it would open 1,000 gaushalas (cow shelters) under the project ‘Gaushala’ at a cost of ₹450 crore.
The state boasts of housing the country’s first cow sanctuary – Kamdhenu Gau Abhyaranya, set up by the BJP government in 2017 on a sprawling 472 hectares in Agar Malwa, around 190 km from Bhopal. The sanctuary developed at a cost of ₹32 crore can house 6,000 cows at a time. The Congress government in 2019 had decided to privatise the sanctuary due to financial crisis and extreme weather conditions which led to the death of at least 600 cows in a year.
Cattle slaughter is partially banned in Madhya Pradesh under the Madhya Pradesh Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, 1959. Under it, while slaughter of cows, calves, bulls, bullocks and buffalo calves is prohibited, that of bulls and bullocks over the age of 20 and unfit for breeding or work, is allowed.
Concerned over increased cow vigilantism and lynching in the state, the Kamal Nath government in 2019 approved a proposal to amend the MP Cow Progeny Slaughter Prevention Act, 2004 which ensures six months to three years’ of incarceration and a fine of ₹25,000 to ₹50,000 or both for those convicted of committing violence in the name of protecting cows.
The bill, which was referred to a 10-member select committee after BJP members opposed it saying it will encourage cow slaughter, however, hangs fire as a call is yet to be taken on its future by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.