Exclusive: The ‘Mother’ of All Facts: Over 3,800 Cows Died in Bhopal’s Govt-aided Gaushalas in Last Three Years of BJP Rule
Surprisingly, the number of deaths increased with the budgetary allocation to these gaushalas.
Bhopal: Is this a case of irony or hypocrisy (or both)? Reply to an RTI application has revealed that 3,826 cows died across Bhopal’s 28 government-aided gaushalas between 2015 and 2018.
Gaurav Mishra, the RTI applicant, told NewsCentral24x7 that while the actual numbers never even get to government books, dozens of animals are traded-off on a daily basis. He added that most of the gaushalas are owned by BJP loyalists.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had ruled the central state of Madhya Pradesh for 15 long years, before losing power to the Congress during the assembly elections held last December. The saffron party’s hullabaloo over “gau mata” and “gau raksha”, which has been held responsible for several lynchings, is what puts a brighter spotlight on these findings.
Per a Human Rights Watch report, between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people were killed due to cow-related lynchings. Out of the 44 people, 36 were Muslims. In that same period, around 280 people were injured in over 100 different incidents.
The RTI data, submitted to the veterinary services department of Bhopal district, revealed that most of the bovines — 1,847 — died in 2017, when then BJP government had created the Gau Samvardhan Board there by appointing a ‘sanyaasi’, Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, as its chairman.
As per the data, 1,363 animals died in 2017-18. In comparison, the 2015-16 death count stood at 616.
However, when the death rate is compared to the total stock of bovines in these gaushalas, the numbers are put in perspective and are even more shocking.
In 2015-16, the 28 gaushalas had 6,127 bovines; hence, with 616 deaths, there was a 10% reduction in the total stock. But, the next year, the total stock had dipped further to 5,894, of which 1,847 animals died, amounting to around 31% of the total. In 2017-18, the total number jumped back up to 6,426 and the 1,363 deaths accounted for 10% of it.
These fluctuating figures of deaths and total stock is where Mishra smells a rat; he said that such swings for three consecutive years are far from normal. His question is this: If animal care in these gaushalas was not good, then why did so few animals die in 2015-16, and if it was good, then why did hundreds perish the very next year? Also, in 2018, the total number of bovines increased, after the BJP government increased the grant amount per animal, he said.
In 2015-16, the government was paying the gaushalas Rs 633 per bovine; two years later, it increased that amount to Rs 1,048 per animal and yet no visible difference was seen in the condition of the animals.
The big fish
Jeev Daya Gaurakshan Kendra on Chhola Road is the biggest gaushala in Bhopal. The maximum number of bovine deaths last year was recorded here — of its 2,414 animals, 1,317 died in 2017-18. Mishra said the gaushala is operated by Ashok Jain, who is the husband of local BJP corporator Asha Jain.
In 2016-17, around 77% of the total livestock in the gaushala perished — of the 2,181 cows it had in its care, 1,690 died; and yet, the animal husbandry department did not raise an eyebrow.
In comparison, in 2015-16, the cow shelter had 1,820 animals, of which 406 died.
When contacted by , Ashok Jain told NewsCentral24x7, “Most of the cows that are sent to my shelter are already in poor health. In fact, many cows die on their way to the shelter, and several more die within days of arrival due to their critical health or old age.” He claimed that his gaushala was doing a service to the society and spending all government grants given for the animals as per norms.
Passing the buck
The BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chauhan had also opened a cow sanctuary in Agar district in 2017. It was touted to be the first of its kind. However, the sanctuary has remained mired in controversies following large-scale deaths of animals, lack of funds and manpower issues.
Not surprisingly, the Congress, too, had used cow politics rhetoric in the run up to the assembly election — it had promised to open gaushalas in every panchayat in the state.
Animal Husbandry Minister Lakhan Singh told NewsCentral24x7, “Deaths of cows in such large numbers is a sensitive issue; I will speak to the officials concerned and look into it.”
When Madhya Pradesh’s BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari was contacted byNewsCentral24x7, he said cows are of utmost priority to the party but he can only comment after examining the RTI documents. However, calls made to Kothari after provision of the documents elicited no response.
Meanwhile, the state’s Congress spokesperson, Pankaj Chaturvedi, has laid the blame squarely on the previous dispensation. “Large-scale irregularities made during Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s rule are coming to the fore now, which the new government is investigating. The BJP only did politics in cow’s name; we, on the other hand, are working for her,” he told NewsCentral24x7.
(Author is a Bhopal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)