Agartala: At least 45 cows seized by the Border Security Force (BSF) from the India-Bangladesh international border that were kept at a cattle shelter (‘gaushala’) in Devipur in Tripura’s Sepahijala district have died in the last three days.
This has taken the total number of cattle deaths to 159 since May 14, when Dhyan Foundation, a Delhi-based NGO, started the cow shelter at Devipur after an agreement with the state government to shelter animals seized from border outposts (BOPs) across the state.
Due to lack of space in the shelter house, the cows were kept under the open sky, said sources. Incessant rainfall in the past six days could have resulted in the death of the animals, the sources added.
Confirming the same, Joshine Antony, in-charge of the gaushala, said: “There were incessant rains for the last six days and the 45 cows were kept under the open skies. Drenched in rains, they died due to hypothermia.”
All the cows seized by the BOPs of the BSF in the past one year were brought to the shelter house. At present, 700 cattle are housed in the gaushala, Antony added.
A team of veterinary doctors from the state government visited the shelter house and collected blood and urine samples. On Tuesday, five cows died due to hypothermia.
“The cattle were seized at the BOPs two to three months ago and they were shifted to the shelter house by the BSF. It was an emergency situation as there were a lot of deaths happening at the BOPs and the BSF was not able to take care of them,” Antony said.
Blaming the state government, she added: “It is the responsibility of the state government to take care of the seized cows, but they were not doing anything. Later, we took the responsibility of those cows, but till date we have not received any support from the state government.”
Antony also said that all the expenditure has been borne by the Dhyan Foundation itself with a total of 34 labourers and two para-veterinary staffers working in the shelter house. However, the state government provided only 4 acres of land for making the gaushala, she said.
“Earlier, we were working at the BOPs to take care of the cows, but there was no infrastructure, so we had to set it up here,” Antony said. She also alleged that locals were putting pressure and threatening her of dire consequences if they did not close the shelter, because it was hampering their interests.
“Earlier, the seized cows were auctioned to the locals, but it is not so now. So, they are unhappy with us,” Antony said.
When contacted, director of animal resources development Dr Dilip Kumar Chakma said that the NGO started working for the past two to three months and inducted some seized cattle from the BSF.
“They have taken the responsibility and the department has given four acres of land for temporarily utilisation. Now they have started induction. The green fodder was not available. I have learnt that some cattle died because of want of food. The responsibility of the government is to look after the health and accommodation of the cattle. Similarly, the Meghalaya government has also given five acres of land to Dhyan Foundation,: Chakma told EastMojo.
Chakma also asked the NGO earlier to provide full quota of feed to the cows.
“On a humanitarian grounds, we provided them the ground because they didn’t have land to accommodate a large number of cattle,” the director said, adding that at present there is only one cow shelter in the state.
Meanwhile, state animal resource development minister Santana Chakma was unavailable for comment on the issue, despite repeated attempts.
The Supreme Court in a verdict on August 4, 2017 had said that the sale of cattle should be in consonance with the prevention of cruelty to animal. The auction of seized cattle by customs is to be discontinued, the order had said.